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3 key learnings from Nottingham City Council’s experience with regulatory barriers and solutions in retrofitting of existing buildings

Alison Stacey, REMOURBAN project lead, Nottingham City Council
29 October 2016
Nottingham City Council
Nottingham City Council

Nottingham is one of the three lighthouse cities in the REMOURBAN project implementing actions in the fields of low energy districts, sustainable mobility, integrated infrastructure, society. We asked Alison Stacey, REMOURBAN project lead from Nottingham City Council, what is their experience with regulatory barriers and what factors need to change to find solutions.

3 key learnings from Nottingham City Council’s experience with regulatory barriers and solutions

  1. Continuing with existing procurement practices tends to reinforce the established standards of retrofitting and does not encourage innovation – whether that be in the products or the means of applying them.  Municipalities become part of the problem because they tender with very detailed specifications that do not test the market.
  2. Tendering for bids that deliver solutions to urban challenges – rather than tendering for specific items – leads to more innovation.  This has to be done in conjunction with a change to the evaluation scoring of the tenders – so that the performance of what is procured is valued as well as the price quoted.
  3. The Municipality needs to take on the role of the “intelligent customer” and work with the construction sector, in a collaborative way, to optimise the outcomes from results required – i.e.  x% of energy reduction per house for  y£ per house.  This moves the Municipality to a process of purchasing guaranteed results rather than products or processes.

Decisive element involved

With austerity measures and reducing budgets Municipalities are having to review what and how they procure goods and services – across a range of areas from adult care to retrofitting of houses.

Linked to this is the need to find innovative, alternative solutions to urban challenges – in its present form how and what is procured to deliver adult care is unsustainable and unaffordable. With regard to retrofitting, recent experience has shown that the construction sector competes almost purely on cost but not within the same parameters.

What this means is that the Municipality ends up with tenders that offer quotes to obtain a % reduction in energy for a price per house.  However, they are not standardised so the Municipality cannot easily compare the different bids. 

They also do not guarantee a level of saving and when this is not achieved the Municipality has to help support the residents.

Factors that need to change

  • Tenders should be written to stop asking for prices on a specified product or service but to change to ask for costed solutions to urban challenges – in order to promote innovation.
  • Sufficient time should be allowed for a two-stage process.  The first is an Expression of Interest stage that asks for ideas.  Companies are provided with a small amount of feasibility study funding to help take the idea to the next stage – usually to make sure the idea can be scaled up to commercialise it successfully.  The second stage involves 2 or 3 companies that will work with the Municipality and each other in order to optimise the outcomes from the process.  The emphasis is on collaborative working so that the sector raises its innovation and skills levels not just one or two companies.
  • Intellectual property remains with the companies and, effectively, the Municipality is using the city and its asset as a demonstrator – the companies can showcase their ideas and the municipality benefits from an innovative approach to its challenges.
  • Most Municipalities share the same urban challenges therefore the learnings from these potential solutions can and should be replicated across a number of cities.

Alison Stacey has worked in both the private and public sectors.  These included managerial roles in sales and distribution, and a variety of managerial and senior roles at the Government Office, Regional Development Agency and at the largest of the Lottery Distributors.  In recent years most of her roles have been involved heavily with economic development.

Before joining Nottingham City Council Alison ran her own consultancy firm that helped advise a range of public and voluntary sector organisations on grant funding and sources of funding. At Nottingham City Council Alison has been heavily involved with the Nottingham Science City and Innovation agenda and works closely with a range of key partners, including both Universities and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership. As well as the above, Alison spent 4 years as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University Business School, lecturing first time managers on a range of organisational change and management issues.

She is currently the Business Growth Development Specialist  in Nottingham City Council’s Economic Development service and the lead for the Horizon 2020 funded project – REMOURBAN – which aims to reduce CO2 emissions through a range of interventions with housing, transport and ICT.