The Ministry of Defence is under pressure to improve the efficiency of its building and maintenance programme as it faces “tighter financial constraints” and increasingly complex estate-consolidation projects.
Defence chiefs emphasised the increased value they were expected to attain from their predicted budget of £3 billion for new-build and upgraded living accommodation for the Armed Forces over the next 10 years – the highest levels of investment for decades.
In a strategy to 2020, produced by the MoD’s accommodation delivery arm Defence Estates, the department revealed: “As we go forward, we face tighter financial constraints, suppressed property prices, and developments of greater complexity and financial challenge.
“We are already assessing how new strategies will ease our passage into [the 10-year programme].”
Defence Estates said that in recent years it had already improved efficiency through increased off-site construction and standardised building designs. It added: “We will continue with this approach while promoting flexibility wherever deviation from standards provides the optimal cost effective solution.”
Its procurement strategies need to provide “a secure, stable and low risk environment in which to invest”, it said, to encourage fiscal dedication from the Government.
The department has been working toward long-term plans for consolidating its estate onto fewer, larger sites, including the proposed “super garrisons” for the West Midlands and potentially the North or East of England.
While the MoD predicts it will spend £3bn on new projects over the coming decade, only part of those funds have in fact been secured.
In the strategy it confirmed funding, however, to accelerate the refurbishment of 12,000 Service Families Accommodation units over the next three years.
The Defence Estates main areas of investment are in SFA – it owns 50,000 properties in the UK and 20,000 overseas – and Single Living Accommodation – a total of about 160,000 homes.
Property is graded under four levels, determined by its physical condition, the scale of space and facilities, its location to local amenities and environmental factors, such as noise.
Under the strategy, the MoD will carry out a programme of major upgrades for SFA houses in the worst condition. It said: “The initial focus will be on the Standard 3 and 4 properties, with the aim of ensuring that by March 2013 very little, if any, of the occupied UK SFA estate should be below Standard 2.”
Modern Housing Solutions – a consortium of Carillion and Enterprise – currently holds the contract to carry out work on SFA properties. The deal, which was signed in November 2005, is due to run out late in 2012.
Under separate plans for SLA units, Defence Estates has promised:
- a programme of building new accommodation blocks to “full-scale modern standard”;
- major refurbishment of some existing blocks; and
- a programme of minor improvements to older blocks that were not due for replacement or refurbishment within the next five years.
It added: “Progressively, we will be addressing RAF sites which in the 1980s and 90s had the best standard accommodation, and smaller sites where some blocks may be re-usable or, being historic, must be re-used.”
A series of contracts are already currently in place for SLA units. The largest of these is Project SLAM, a seven-year design, construction and maintenance contract that was awarded to Debut Services – Bovis Lend Lease and Babcock Support Services – back in December 2002. The deal is worth £500m and oversees the upgrade of the lowest standard properties across Great Britain.
The second most significant is Project Allenby/Connaught. That project includes the redevelopment of Aldershot Garrison and garrisons in the Salisbury Plain area, including the construction of several new barracks. The framework is held by the Aspire Defence consortium, including Carillion and engineering firm KBR.
A spokesman for the MoD was unable to specify how the future work would be packaged after the current contracts are up, but said they would be reviewed as necessary.