London housing association the Peabody Trust spends £50m on construction every year. And if you are an innovative architect or a time-saving sustainable contractor, it wants to hear from you.
What is the Peabody Trust?

A London-based housing association.

Who is the key decision-maker?

Development director Dickon Robinson.

What are the housing association’s investment plans?

The Peabody Trust spends about £50m a year on construction. It builds flats and houses all over London and has started developing schemes in the Home Counties.

What is its preferred procurement route?

The trust uses a mixture of standard lump-sum and design-and-build contracts. The procurement route is decided on a project-by-project basis.

How easy is it to win work with the Peabody Trust?

Robinson is a fan of innovation and is always on the look out for new talent. Architects that can offer technical innovations such as prefabrication and low-energy design have a good chance – even if they have never worked in social housing before. Robinson is looking for contractors that can cut construction times. He says planning now takes so long that build times have to be shorter to compensate.

How does the Peabody Trust choose contractors and architects?

Robinson, an architect by training, is keen on architectural competitions. As well as selecting architects this way, the trust uses practices that have a track record in social housing, but it also selects by competitive interview.

Until this year, the trust ran an approved list of contractors but, according to Robinson, this was taking up too much administrative time. It now uses Constructionline to select contractors for competitive tenders. It does not always choose the lowest bidder but the selected contract will always be in the lowest three. Robinson places great store on good site agents and keeps tabs on the best ones.

What about partnering?

Robinson may use competitive bids, but he is keen to develop relationships with contractors and consultants that he admires.

What does Robinson think of Rethinking Construction? He is a fan of Sir John Egan and wants the industry to do more to implement his recommendations. Green issues are close to Robinson’s heart, so Egan’s waste-elimination targets are particularly relevant.

What does Robinson think of the government’s green agenda?

Robinson welcomes any moves to improve sustainability, but he believes that the government should provide VAT relief for sustainable materials and green projects.

How should you start a conversation with Robinson at a party?

Prefabrication is a good topic. The Peabody Trust is building an innovative prefabricated, multistorey housing scheme in Hackney, east London. Robinson is keen on manufacturing housing off site and establishing client-fabricator relationships. If that does not work, try mentioning planning. Like most people in housing, Robinson is a critic of the current system. “The more detailed the plans you submit, the worse it gets,” he says.