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Building Products March 2018

FINAL WORD A CALL FOR COLLABORATION With off-site construction billed as a potential remedy to many of the issues currently facing the UK housebuilding sector, H+H managing director, Calum Forsyth, examines the future of housebuilding and calls for a ‘collaborative approach’. The UK’s housing shortage is not news. Unless you’ve been living on a desert island for the past few years, you’ll have heard the 200,000 – 300,000 new homes figure that has been floated about by successive governments. Neither is ‘off-site’ a new term, with this and a number of its iterations; ‘pre-fabrication’, ‘modular’, ‘factory-based construction’, all being promoted as a possible answer to the housing shortage. Deemed by the government as an innovative way to speed up the construction process, off-site construction could solve many of the current issues facing the UK housebuilding sector, including the shortage of skilled labour. The UK construction sector has been a slow adopter of offsite techniques The UK construction sector however, when compared to its counterparts in Europe, has been a slow adopter of off-site techniques. The large up-front investment required to set up off-site manufacturing facilities combined with the industry’s tendency to prefer traditional building methods, has meant that the uptake has been slow. My own view is that polarising the arguments over delivery between ‘off-site’ and ‘traditional’ is unhelpful, as it ignores the plethora of innovation and new ideas that fall somewhere between those two extremes. As a manufacturer of a masonry product, H+H is keen to see masonry’s continued use in housebuilding, with its clear performance benefits: 74 BUILDING PRODUCTS | MARCH 2018 thermal insulation, fire resistance, flexibility in use and proven longevity, it’s a proven material. While considered a traditional material, there is no reason why masonry-based solutions cannot have a role to play in a modern, forward-thinking approach to volume housebuilding, provided we take a creative approach to implementation. Over the years there have been several brave attempts at creating a housebuilding system to produce homes on the scale that the UK needs. However, many of these have required radical change and have had little impact on the practical methods used to build new homes. Part of this comes down to training with skills shortages increasingly becoming an issue in the UK construction sector. The difficulty of introducing new techniques and methodology to site when there is no adequate training process in place may hinder these new innovations. With the UK’s pending exit from the European Union, we now face the additional challenge of losing access to the site workers, so conveniently trained by other European education systems, with a more enlightened view of skilled trades. With this in mind, it is up to the industry itself to come up with solutions that might bear fruit. Product innovation is not enough and, as we have found, a manufacturer can only do so much. A collaborative approach is what is required. www.hhcelcon.co.uk


Building Products March 2018
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