Lifetime Costs – Feature Case Study

Published: 9th April 2008

CASE STUDY: Stroud District Council

Permadoor Case StudyPermadoor has been working with Stroud District Council since 2006. The authority is responsible for the maintenance and repair of a total of more than 5,000 properties including 900 provided through sheltered accommodation schemes. Permadoor has and continues to deliver a rolling door supply and fit programme, to date refurbishing 250 properties and fitting more than 300 doors as part of the authority’s ongoing maintenance scheme. But while much of the district represents a picture post card of the English countryside the disparate nature of its housing stock means that the rural idyll comes at an added cost to the housing authority.

Phil Leighton, stock condition surveyor, Stroud District Council explains: “We face a number of challenges, first we’re a rural district and our housing stock is distributed over a relatively large area. The second is that many of our properties are perched on or around the top of the Cotswold escarpment and take the full brunt of the British weather. “Regional demographics and climate mean that where we have timber products in place they need more regular maintenance and when we do it, our maintenance crews often have to travel considerable distances to make repairs and that increases our costs.

“For example, it may only be a five minute job to shave a little off a timber door that has warped during wet weather but if you have a couple of call outs it can be incredibly time consuming because crews have to pack up from one job and drive 20 minutes or so across to the second site, unpack and do the work and so on – and tenants aren’t always at home. In an urban centre where you have a concentration of properties these costs can more easily be absorbed and spread across properties so that if someone is out you can simply move onto the next property but where stock is distributed over a large area even relatively small repairs can contribute to significant overall costs.”

In order to secure maximum value from its budgets rather than to carry out ‘blanket’ refurbishments the district council has opted to deliver replacement on a need assessed basis. “We have a finite budget and believe that rather than carrying out wholesale refurbishment we can extract more value in assessing each property on an individual basis”, explains Phil. But while the council has edged away from wholesale replacement it has none-the-less embarked on a significant door replacement programme. Phil says: “Demographics play an important part in everything we do and by only replacing doors on an individual basis the logistics of our operation become that little bit harder. That makes the flexibility and reliability of our supply partners of critical importance.”

As a low maintenance product GRP doors from Permadoor have supported the authority in lowering its maintenance costs, eliminating a substantial slice of scheduled maintenance and emergency repair. Phil says: “The reality is that our properties take a real hit from the weather and timber requires regular maintenance. In addition to this we receive regular call outs to trim a little off the bottom of a door because its sticking because its warped and then find a couple of months later that it needs replacing because its shrunk back and the wind is blowing through – this adds up to substantial cost. With PVC-U and GRP products, we don’t face the same issues, they largely look after themselves.”

But maintenance savings aren’t the only benefit that its replacement programme has delivered. “Doors seem to have a big impact on people”, says Kelly Headley, property data officer, Stroud District Council. “We have an active programme in place to encourage tenant engagement regarding the condition of their properties, it may be a council owned house, flat or bungalow but it’s the tenant’s home. New doors make a really positive contribution to the street scene, help to make homes warmer, tenants to feel more secure but also to instil a pride in the property and the community.”

As part of this drive to encourage tenants to particpate in planning the repairs strategy of their properties and to ensure that their voice is heard, Stroud District Council has launched a new award programme. Called the Housing Award for Performance, tenants have the opportunity to comment on all aspects of delivery by third party contractors. Permadoor was presented with the award last year but rather than simply developed as a pat on the back the innovative scheme has been developed to provide meaningful information to all parties.

Kelly explains: “The award has the dual aim of empowering the tenant but also feeding back to the partner supplier on their service, to commend what they do well and to highlight areas where improvement can be made. It’s a measure of good work but much more because it serves to give tenants ownership of the process as well as acting as a performance measure.” Phil adds: “The GRP range from Permadoor has been an important part of this process, tenants love them but also they’re a great match to our stock. We have a diverse range of properties from 1970s flats through to 1920s cottages some of which are really quite full of character. The GRP door delivers the same aesthetics as timber, which has allowed us to maintain this balance without the associated maintenance.”

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