042 BP 1016

BP 10 October 2016

BRICKS, BLOCKS & PAVERS Nowadays modular building is not the only way to build good quality houses quickly, efficiently, within budget and using a relatively unskilled labour force. We would do well to lift our heads and look further afield. A good exercise and especially one that should be under taken before we serve Article 50 and exit Europe, is to take a trip to the continent and take a look at the alternative quick and efficient construction build methods commonly adopted there. There is just 20 miles of water between the UK and Europe but in terms of build methods it might as well be a million. Some 80% of all construction on the continent is masonry and surprisingly little of it is traditional bricks, blocks and mortar either. They are using products like the H+H Celcon ‘thin joint’ blockwork system, Weinerberger Porotherm clay blocks, the Xella Silka Elements and Casco panel systems and much more besides every day of every week. There are a number of wonderful systems out there that give you all the benefits of ‘traditional masonry’, together with the robustness, durability 42 BUILDING PRODUCTS | OCTOBER 2016 and longevity that we all aspire to own. As well as addressing many of the energy efficiency aspects required in a new build, such as the thermal mass and air tightness that all but a few of us can only pretend to fully understand. More importantly, these alternative masonry build methods are quick and efficient, and in many cases cheaper than pre-fabricated or traditional build methods. In comparison, the UK is a long way behind the rest of Europe in its approach to build methods. We still consider alternative Masonry build methods as the new frontier … something to be approached cautiously and not without thorough research and consultation. Whilst I would always advocate the need for due diligence, in the right hands alternative masonry build methods can provide a fast, strong and efficient build that will stand the test of time. It should be a major contributor in the race to build 250,000 new homes a year, not just the preserve of the enlightened few. House builders in Europe are not only building for today, they are investing in their future. Will they look back in 30 years’ time and say we need to learn the same lessons as we do in the UK? I very much doubt it. Why is it that, given the option, most of us would choose masonry for our own house, yet when we build for others, pretty much anything goes? Well, it does not have to be like that. These build methods have been used from nursing homes to affordable housing, and can help us all achieve the new homes goal. To combat the housing shortage, building quickly, efficiently and cheaply are key prerequisites to any build process and ultimately the best way to solve the housing problem for future generations. It is time to consider all build options and to choose the right one to efficiently create strong and long lasting dwellings. Let us build these houses for our long-term future and not just to satisfy short-term needs. Norman Hinckes is Managing Director of Masonry Frame Systems


BP 10 October 2016
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