A message from John Skivington, LHC Group Director
I have been privileged to be one of only three people in the last 55 years to hold the post of LHC Director.
When LHC was first founded in 1966 (or London Housing Consortium as it was then known), the aim was to bring together the Chief Architects of 13 London Boroughs to coordinate technical and social standards for the booming council house building programme. This was the time we last built 300,000 new homes in Great Britain.
The Consortium soon realised it needed a permanent full-time appointment to lead the work and Tony Barlow was appointed as the first LHC Director. Tony recognised the importance of standardised components as a key to ensuring efficiency and quality (sound familiar?) and set up ‘bulk purchasing arrangements’ for such products. It was a great success, and today’s LHC framework agreements owe much to that initiative.
The end of the 1970s saw the demise of council house building in Great Britain. LHC switched its focus from new building to the refurbishment and maintenance of existing social housing stock. Tony retired and passed the directorship of LHC to another architect, Dr Eli Kienwald. Eli had been working at LHC as a Technical Manager for a while and by the time of his eventual retirement had served 37 years at LHC. As Director, Eli established the robust procurement processes for which LHC is renowned (remember, this is years before the first Public Contracts Regulations saw the light of day). He championed technical excellence in the delivery of works and services for public sector buildings. That remains the hallmark of LHC.
At this time, LHC was still predominantly working with the asset teams of London Boroughs, supporting them with their elemental refurbishment projects. But that all changed in the early 2000s with the introduction of the Decent Homes Standard and the creation of Arm’s Length Management Organisations (ALMOs). London ALMOs now had big budgets and could rebuild their own in-house procurement expertise. They formed their own procurement consortium – the London ALMO Procurement Network (LAPN) – to provide support for major projects. LHC’s technical expertise was still required for building components in London and increasingly from contracting authorities outside of London.
Eli retired and passed the reigns to me with the objective of expanding LHC operations geographically. As I joined in 2004, a key event was the judgement that Housing Associations should be considered as public sector bodies. This provided another expansion opportunity for LHC’s services. A couple of years later saw the introduction of the Public Contracts Regulations. These were very much welcomed by LHC as they, in effect, formalised the service provision already offered by LHC and helped to professionalise the procurement of public sector housing and buildings in England, Wales and Scotland (with 2006 Scotland regulations). The regulatory environment continues to shape LHC’s business in all regions and countries of Great Britain.
Our success and longevity is due to our adaptability to respond to local needs while jealously guarding the LHC reputation for procurement integrity and technical excellence.
This will continue for the next 5, 10, 50 years or more. Today we are reshaping our operations in alignment with the dynamic revitalisation of our industry, post-Covid, with a focus on Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), Net Zero, Building Safety and a Fair Society. Our teams are eager to work together with all partners to deliver better homes, buildings and communities.
I’m sure the fourth Director will have as much fun and pride working with the LHC team as the three predecessors have.
- John Skivington, LHC Group Director