With PropertyLab, we're bringing change-makers from Property and PropTech together to develop solutions that produce rapid results and create long-term strategic impact in just 14 weeks. Here's Edition #1 of our 'Meet the Cohort' series.

PropertyLab | Meet the Cohort | Edition #1:

As part of our new PropertyLab Programme, we’ll be introducing the game changing groups and individuals that make up the pioneering first cohort. 

We’ll get their insights into some of the key challenges they face as a business, and hear about what they’re looking to get out of the initial programme, which focuses on finding a solution for some of their unique goals around fire and gas compliance. 

As well as our eventual goal of developing a prototype at the end of the PropertyLab process, we’re also committed to sharing new ideas and concepts of best practice from our cohort, as well as the wider world of design & innovation. 

Introducing Nigel Sedman - Group Director of Homes, ForViva  

As the first part of our Meet the Cohort series, we sat down with Nigel Sedman, Group Director of Homes at ForViva, to get his insights into some of the excellent work Forviva is doing as well as some of the challenges the business currently faces. 

With over 20 years of experience in the sector including working closely in specialist fields like responsive maintenance, gas servicing, compliance, specialist services, improvements and void work, Nigel is well versed in the challenges that the housing sector faces. 

He understands the importance of supporting small local businesses and contractors to help drive wider benefits within local communities and was kind enough to share his insights with us.  

ForViva Background

ForViva is a not-for-profit housing association operating across the North West, passionate about making a difference to people’s lives and challenging inequalities. The company manages over 24,000 homes, across the North West, and is committed to making positive, lasting impacts within the communities they operate in. 

One of ForViva’s key focuses is ‘challenging inequalities’. It runs a number of excellent community programmes including ‘Dementia Friends’ which helps those suffering from dementia, ‘Bright Futures’ which helps people into employment, ‘Women With Wings’ which supports women in building better career prospects and smaller local programmes teaching and inspiring children to grow their own food. 

ForViva also supports local youth and sports clubs to encourage young people to be more active and engaged and they run mentoring programmes too like ‘Smart Choices’ which helps vulnerable young people make better choices and get the help and support they need to lead fulfilling, happier lives. 

ForViva Fast Facts 

  • 24,000 homes and properties managed 
  • £2.7 million of social value created 
  • Positively impacting the lives of 12,962 tenants
  • ForViva works with 18 schools
  • The company has 89 delivery partners
  • 6,854 hours of youth engagement activity 

What Makes ForViva Tick? 

Nigel, what are some of the compliance challenges ForViva currently faces?

A lot of our concerns are around safety and compliance and the workflow that follows these processes. We have a surveyor who may visit and take photos on a site to schedule the work that is required and then decide whether it is a high, medium or low risk job. 

That surveyor will also decide how long the job should take and I need that information to be accurate so that I can report to the board and compliance teams and say “we have x number of issues found, with x number in progress and x number completed.

One of the challenges is streamlining this process and ensuring evidence of completion is accurate and documented, we need to be able to trust the accuracy of what surveyors give us and have clear lines of communication. 

How can technology play a role in helping improve standards in the housing sector?

There is a big risk when it comes to human errors with compliance. At the moment, we rely on a surveyor to simply mark a task as complete; there have been occasions in the past when the task is marked complete by a surveyor but the actual task itself wasn’t complete. 

There have also been occasions where some of the things identified as compliant weren’t compliant  and this impacts on the accuracy of reporting and the quality of services. This is an area I think the sector as a whole could drastically improve on. 

Feedback is always important and smart technology is also crucial for communication and helping with workflow and accuracy, as well as automating more manual tasks. 

Have there been any standout moments over the years or a game changers that have influenced or changed how you manage your properties? 

For the whole housing sector, Grenfell was a massive signal for change. After that, we wanted to kick into action straight away - removing all problematic ACM cladding, and spending £5million on installing sprinklers in our high rise properties. 

Health and safety is crucial for us and we know that tenants want value for money, but most importantly, that they want to feel safe knowing essential services like gas and fire safety are of high quality. We can only expect this to forge a better relationship with our tenants in the long-run. 

We’re always committed to improving standards, especially since we manage high rise buildings. Compliance is very important too, we have run campaigns in the past, to educate tenants about safety, especially things like fire safety, gas safety and clearing pathways. It's really ingrained in us as an organisation. 

Everything we’ve done in response has always been above and beyond what is required to help ensure we get even better. 

What lessons have you learned in terms of tenant safety and ensuring building maintenance?

In 2010 we had a significant gas explosion where we had 210 properties damaged from one defective property, where one person down the supply chain cut corners.

We have always been pretty hot on gas safety but for this reason, we now try to go above and beyond when it comes to safety - particularly when it comes to gas and fire. We’re first to recognise the importance of improving the health and safety and the standards of living for our tenants. 

We’re always striving to get better and tenants do realise that services like gas can put them at risk, so we do everything possible to keep them safe, we always get gas certification and we keep people informed of any maintenance works ahead of time. 

Access is a massive issue – we need to have more power to actually get in to check the things we need to like gas and fire pathways, we need to lobby the government to allow us to check everything is still working effectively to put safety first, even when facing difficult tenants. 

Why did ForViva sign up to the PropertyLab Programme?

We really like the concept of the PropertyLab Programme and the idea of sharing insights and best practice, ideally we see the programme as a way of helping up-skill staff on how to innovate processes and technology, and teaching them new ways of doing things. 

Compliance is generally  an inefficient, regimented  process, and we’re keen to really explore out-of-the box ideas that can improve our processes, but also the quality of service we offer to tenants. 

If you found these insights useful and want to learn more about the exciting innovation coming out of PropertyLab, join our mailing list at propertylab@plentific.com.