Manchester 2017 – A few reflections

The CIH Annual Conference was, unsurprisingly and rightly so, dominated by the Grenfell Tower disaster. The Conference opened by with a respectful minute’s silence for the victims, their families and friends and that set the tone for the event. Many colleagues were notably absent from the conference, dealing with the ramifications of the fire.

There were no clear answers about how to deal with the issues that Grenfell raised, not only in terms of cladding, but relating to fire safety in high rise homes and more generally. There was plenty of discussion in relation to the potential use of sprinkler systems and fire alarms, from speakers so the message can be changed as fire situations evolve.  We were asked on more than one occasion about our capability, which we have, and capacity, of which we have less but still some, to support client teams during this busy phase.

On other matters regulation and de-regulation were big issues with the pros and cons being actively debated. Generally, the sector is embracing the latest change. Active asset management has, finally it seems, been adopted by large parts of the sector, and we were pleased to demonstrate our Generation Two asset grading process on the stand. We are following up a number of enquiries taken on the stand.

The new Homes England team were out in force and we held some interesting discussions about another big topic, Volumetric and Modular homes. We were able to discuss CHIC’s new contract with Premier Modular which was announced  just before the conference, and were invited to discuss CHIC’s approach in detail with a number of potential members.

The social ramifications of Brexit, the election and Grenfell were all actively discussed on the conference floor and on the ARK stand. There was universal disappointment when at the last minute the Housing Minister Alok Sharma decided not to address the conference, and missed the opportunity to engage with housing professionals just when housing is, for all the wrong reasons, front and centre of national concerns.