According to a report published by
Geoff Fawkes, director of The McAvoy Group, looks at how offsite
Shelter, 250,000 new homes a year
construction is helping to address the housing crisis by increasing
need to be built in the UK to keep
up with demand – and yet only
productivity 163,000 new homes were delivered in 2017. The
unprecedented demand for new housing has
created a systemic crisis.
There is a severe shortage of affordable homes
and homelessness continues to increase, yearon
year. There is a lack of skilled labour in
construction, compounded by Brexit, and an
ageing workforce. The building industry has a poor
delivery record with too many projects still fraught
with sub-standard quality, delays and budget
overruns. To quote one recent article – ‘too few
homes, built at too high a price, for too few people’.
In response, the government has set a target to
build 300,000 new homes annually by the mid-
2020s and has pledged its support to increase
the use of offsite construction to help address
the challenges. This commitment is reinforced
by the recent House of Lords committee report
into offsite manufacture, which calls for a radical
overhaul of the construction industry.
Surge in interest
There has been a surge in interest in new
construction methods in recent years, and
BUILDING PRODUCTS | NOVEMBER
particularly in offsite solutions, as traditional ways
of working continue to fall short of the required
standards and volumes. The UK construction
industry has often been slow to adopt new
technologies and processes – which is why it now
has one of the lowest productivity rates in Europe.
Offsite construction though, is not new –
modular building systems have been widely used
for decades from schools and healthcare schemes
to hotels, commercial buildings and infrastructure
projects. But are the skills transferable? Our
view is there is far less risk in using an offsite
manufacturer with a proven track record, readily
available production capacity, and who already
has expertise as a principal contractor.
Simplifying procurement and improving
There are now multiple options in the UK offsite
housing sector for manufacturers to produce
structures which are installed onto pre-prepared
foundations – leaving design, groundworks and
other aspects of the project to others.
In our experience, this approach is far less
efficient and quality control issues can arise
where there is no single point of contact. Another
option is to give developers and housing providers
a fully seamless turnkey service encompassing
design, planning approvals, site preparation and
groundworks, building manufacture, offsite fitting
out, landscaping and infrastructure. This type of
solution delivers improved quality control, effective
cost management, and simplifies procurement and
project management for the client.
Understanding the benefits
There are clear benefits of building new homes in
a factory, which have been well documented and
are demonstrated with the use of offsite solutions
in other sectors.
Build programmes can be halved for a faster
return on investment and earlier handover for
occupation. The quality of factory construction
can far exceed site-based building methods.
Offsite is not affected by poor weather or
damage to materials on site. It is not reliant on