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12th November 2021

Norse Consulting – Earning Trust and Respect

As the Norse Group’s property services come together as Norse Consulting, Chief Operating Officer Simon Hersey explains his vision for the new consultancy offering.It has been three years since the idea of creating Norse Consulting was first mooted – and now the new property services company is ready to make waves in the built environment.

Simon Hersey, Chief Operating Officer for Consulting at the Norse Group, had a clear vision of how the new operation would bring multiple disciplines together and offer professional, building consultancy.

“The thought behind Norse Consulting was to have a more direct association as part of the Norse family,” he explains.

“What we wanted to do was to give the group a greater focus in terms of its enduring consultancy offering, and to share and give greater visibility, both internally and to the marketplace, to the great work we undertake in this area.”

A clear vision

Norse Consulting is now the parent company for building consultancy services within the Norse Group, the UK’s largest local authority trading company.

Operating within sectors focusing on Advisory, Corporate Real Estate, Design and Partnerships, it can provide stand alone or integrated services, incorporating a spectrum of professional disciplines, to public or private sector clients.

“We have an incredible amount of intellectual capital within the group, but we didn’t have the right structure to optimise it moving forward,” says Simon, a chartered building surveyor by profession.

“We now have that – one of the most exciting things for me is that forming Norse Consulting has really given us a real clarity in terms of our business lines and service offering.”

Cultivating and enhancing

Within the Norse Group, which is fully owned by Norfolk County Council, NPS Property Consultants has formed various joint ventures (JVs) with other local authorities across the UK over the years.

It has seen great success with these, and the plan now is for the new Partnerships division to build on what has already been achieved.

“Partnerships will endure at the heart of our operations and hence revenues,” Simon observes.

“We will actively cultivate and enhance our current partnerships to ensure these continue to align to our partners’ strategic objectives while also reacting to new partnership opportunities where mutually beneficial outcomes can be secured.”

While the NPS Group predominantly grew through these JVs, which have included working with Devon County Council, Leeds City Council, London Borough of Waltham Forest and Peterborough City Council, it also made a number of acquisitions.

These acquisitions have been consolidated over a number of years to form Hamson Barron Smith (HBS), providing architecture, surveying, building services and engineering consultancy.

“The world is a dynamic place and the pace of change keeps increasing, particularly in the demands made upon the public sector, and we need to be responsive to that environment to ensure that we can continue to effectively support the needs of our clients and wider stakeholders.”

High-performing consultants

At the same time, Simon continues, he wanted to focus on Norse’s “intellectual capital.”

“This is really another driver for Norse Consulting – to make sure we really shine the light on our consultancy offering,” he explains.

“While we already had HBS delivering professional design and technical consultancy, I was also really keen to be able to exploit our offer in terms of Advisory and our Corporate Real Estate services.”

“In terms of Advisory, we understood that across the group we held a significant amount of intellectual capital, but what we didn’t really have was a conduit to provide an accessible and unified offer to the market.”

The thought behind the new Advisory team was to provide a strategic focus on the built environment particularly in the areas of climate, sustainable development, programmes and procurement.

“We wanted to create a high-performing team of consultants with the ability to back-reach into the talent and technical skills held in the wider group,” he adds.

Building on market presence

There was also potential for growth in Corporate Real Estate, Simon says. The group had successfully delivered Total Estates and Asset Management Services (TEAMS) through several of its joint ventures.

The ambition now was to focus on extending the service offering to a wider client base through Norse Consulting and to build on market presence and delivery. Among the offer will be a full spectrum of services, ranging from rural and rating through to general landlord and tenant, valuation and planning advice, enabling integrated and holistic management and strategic review of clients’ asset portfolios.

“In Corporate Real Estate there are some really exciting opportunities for us. We have done an awful lot of estates work historically but that has been largely contained within individual teams within our partnerships,” Simon says.

“Quite rightly, to date, our work has been predominately focused on particular partners but through Norse Consulting we will now be able to grow our team organically which will allow us to broaden and promote our offer across the wider public sector.”

He adds: “What we now have is Norse Consulting providing Advisory and Estates and sitting alongside that we have Hamson Barron Smith, which is providing Design, a professional technical consultancy, with surveyors, engineers and architects.

“The changes we have implemented through Norse Consulting, complemented by HBS, create a compelling building consultancy offer that is aligned to the life-cycle of an asset and that can be packaged and bespoked to meet clients’ individual needs. That offer, together with our valued long term partnerships, ensures we are well placed to optimise the future.”

Housing, education and healthcare

Key areas of interest for Norse Consulting will continue to be housing, education, healthcare and corporate estates.

“Housing is an expanding part of our work, notably the delivery of Passivhaus or net zero schemes. We are working with a growing number of local authorities to support their housing and development aspirations, often through joint venture arrangements enabling the local authority partner to be an active and positive enabler for high quality housing in their area through the development of under-utilised land assets.” Simon explains.

“We are involved in some excellent Passivhaus housing projects – for example, we have won numerous awards for the Carrowbreck Meadow Passivhaus development in Norwich. We were the cost consultants on the Goldsmith Street project in Norwich that won the RIBA Stirling Award and we are currently involved in net zero housing projects in Brentwood.”

“The low carbon agenda, of course, also spreads across our other sectors and we are currently leading on the design and delivery of the UK’s first Passivhaus Energy Retrofit certified school in East Ayrshire which should see largest energy reductions ever seen in a UK school and act as an exemplar for others to follow.”

“Across the board, we get involved in some fantastic and diverse projects – we are doing some really great work in terms of the special educational needs programme for Norfolk County Council; we have delivered ground-breaking dementia care facilities; we have created a state-of-the-art visitor centre at Dartmoor National Park; and we have provided estates advice for Luton Airport – to name but a few.”

But, he adds: “We should not forget the hundreds of other projects that are being delivered every day across the company. While many will not be of the scale or prestige as those mentioned they nonetheless play a critical part in ensuring our clients can deliver their own operations safely and effectively.”

Purposeful business

Fundamental to the changes being implemented is to maintain and enhance the Norse Group’s core values and ethos, ensuring it is a purposeful business delivering positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for its clients and stakeholders.

“Everything we do is centred around a clear and ethical purpose; we understand the needs of our clients and we personalise what we do to fit their strategic aims. Together we deliver solutions to better support local communities, maintaining a purpose-driven approach to improving the places where people live, work, receive health and care. Every member of our team is an integral and valued part of that purpose.”

“Key to our success is earning and retaining the trust and respect of our clients. If we achieve that, we will be doing a good job.”

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