Loxal Security is working with social housing providers to help speed up the refurbishment and re-letting of empty council houses. Loxal’s unique access control technology enables repairs contractors to have secure yet unrestricted access to the empties which improves productivity and so reduces costs.
In ‘high-churn’ social housing environments, repairs and maintenance contractors are challenged with providing multi-disciplined teams to ‘blitz’ voids and return them to a fully lettable condition with the minimum of delay. And to achieve this can mean working seven days a week. In addition, housing staff need to integrate into this refurbishment activity, assessing works to be completed and where possible pre-letting the void by acting as letting agents for potential tenants who have succeeded in being short-listed for any newly available dwelling. This makes the void a very busy ‘workplace’ for multiple teams from many different organisations.
However, even the most focused of void turnaround teams can be hampered by one simple problem - the property keys. Up to 15% of operational time can be wasted travelling to pick-up and drop-back property keys as well as searching for lost keys, aborted visits and waiting time. Costs begin to escalate when additional keys are cut for the multiple teams together with the management time to control their distribution. Not forgetting travel and parking costs which can be significant.
Although circulating multiple property keys does allow easy access to properties, it offers no control regarding who can access them and when. Keys can be easily duplicated by others and this risks unauthorised access and potentially illegal sub-letting of council dwellings. Out-going sub-contractors and staff can retain property keys which could be used at a later date.
Previously there was no real alternative to the issue of property keys. Only traditional keysafes which offer no control over who can gain access the keys or expensive suited locks which can allow unrestricted access to all properties to anyone with the key. Either option left the responsibility to the client to manage the distribution of codes or keys but offered no record of their use. In addition, utilising these traditional methods often required two visits to each void and potentially damaging installation to adjacent brickwork.
Seeking further innovation in their void turnaround process, Southwark Council trialled a completely revolutionary technology designed specifically for empty dwellings. Designed and manufactured in Britain by Loxal Security, their Intelligent Digital Access Control System – IDACS, is the result of over three years development work. A formal pilot programme was initiated and closely analysed by the Housing team. The pilot demonstrated a significant improvement in void turnaround as a result of these efficiency and productivity gains. Major voids – those requiring significant refurbishment and repair activity – were returned to occupancy 7.25 days faster using this new access control technology. This represents a 15% reduction in void duration and translates into a full additional rent-week in income for the borough – approximately £120 per void. On minor voids, a saving of nearly four days was made between the void being returned to the housing team and subsequently re-let reducing this period from eleven to seven days. This can be attributed to eliminating delays in awaiting keys to be returned and shows a more ‘joined-up’ housing management process between hand-back of the void from the repairs team, pre-allocating potential new tenants and commencing the tenancy.
A major benefit of the Loxal technology is that, unlike any similar system, it can be easily re-programmed to add new operatives or to bar contractors who have had contracts terminated or departing staff members. In a dynamic supply-chain with multiple contractors and sub-contractors this could become a headache for the client however this is part of the IDACS code management service offered by Loxal. For example, when an asbestos contractor lost their licence, their team was quickly barred from entering any Southwark voids.
By providing this technology on a rental basis, capital expenditure is avoided and the associated rental income gains and efficiency savings create a powerful business case for the investment. The procurement process was ‘risk-free’ as the pilot allowed benefits to be closely analysed and a flexible hire agreement means that quantities can be increased or decreased to meet the changing operational demands of the housing team. By working closely with Southwark’s repairs contractors, Mears and Southwark Building Services, there was no duplication of installation resources and costs.
Dan Delaney, Loxal Director says, “We are delighted to be working with Southwark Council and building upon the successful pilot of our new access control technology. The operational benefits and savings achieved have been very significant and advantageous to all of Southwark’s stakeholders’.
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