The construction sector is facing many challenges, from meeting the UK’s housing demand to the ongoing skills shortage. If the industry is to meet government housebuilding targets – 1 million homes by 2020 – it must adopt innovative methods of construction.
Off-site construction is seen by many as the key to the housing crisis, as precision engineering reduces build time, labour costs and improves building performance.
One key issue that has been dominating headlines recently is the skills shortage, with almost two-thirds of small building firms reporting that they are forced to turn away work because of labour shortages2, yet the UK’s demand for housing is more urgent than ever before.
The skills shortage highlights the need for innovation across the industry in order to deliver quality housing that can be produced both quickly and cost efficiently, without compromising environmental targets. Off-site construction reduces the impact of labour shortages as ‘prefinished’ solutions can be erected in a fraction of the time compared to traditional builds.
Not only must the industry escalate the speed at which housing can be delivered, but we must also recognise the need of housing to be affordable, too. At a time when the average age of first time buyers has risen to 30 (and 32 in London)3, we should be embracing smart construction, which requires less resource than traditional builds. This will be key to regulating house prices for future generations.
Not only should housing be affordable for the individual, but it should also be economical to supply. Housing associations are under pressure to deliver buildings with low operational and maintenance costs as well as achieving high performance standards, all to strict financial budgets.
Not only can smart construction be a quicker and more cost efficient option, teamed with a fabric first approach, it can also ensure energy efficiency and environmental performance through precision engineering, as well as reducing the ‘design’ versus ‘as built’ performance gap.
It is clear that off-site manufacturing and construction will help to meet the challenges facing the construction industry, and if solutions are flexible and can be tailored to individual customer needs, the industry can provide homes that are affordable, healthy, and can be supplied quickly and efficiently.
Critics of off-site construction worry about ‘flat-pack’ standardisation, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Smart construction can have tailored elements for individual requirements, and this is why Saint-Gobain has launched its first range of off-site solutions, which includes custom built solutions.
More information about the Saint-Gobain Frame System can be found at www.greatplac.es
1 The Telegraph, July 2015, http://bit.ly/1HGzRPs
2 Federation of Master Builders survey, August 2015
3 Homes and Property, July 2016, http://bit.ly/29Utuc8