Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Is Offsite Construction Driving the Commercial Housing Market?

The UK Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, recently stated that firm's not using new technology in order to speed up housebuilding now "risk being left behind." Moving away from traditional methods of construction and embracing new technology is absolutely key to achieving speed of build in today's major housing shortage.

With the UK requiring 250,000 new homes to be built each year in order to meet demand, offsite construction is a clear solution. Simon Orrells recognised the potential when he started his company back in the early 1990's - Frame Wise is now one of the UK's leading timber frame manufacturers and installers. After over two decades in the industry, Simon shares his perspective on how offsite construction is going to play a key role in driving the commercial housing.
"We are at a time when it is vital to ensure that money invested in construction goes as far as possible - however, quality is more important than ever and cannot be sacrificed as a result.

Offsite, as a method of construction, offers clear benefits in terms of cost and speed of delivery and it is essential during this time of rapid development, that these benefits are recognised and exploited. The government's 2025 Industrial Strategy states the aspiration of a 50% reduction in the overall time, from inception to completion for newbuild and refurbished assets, based on the industry's performance in 2013. The pressure on the affordable housing sector to produce more homes for less has never been greater."
Timber Frame in Offsite Construction
"The offsite construction industry is now worth up to £3 billion per year and according to research conducted by MTW, 65% of timber frame suppliers are now reporting growth compared to 40% in 2013, underlining rising optimism for the majority of the timber frame market. Housing Associations are waking up to the benefits of offsite construction - increasing the usage of the method rapidly since the early 2000's due to the speed of build that it brings. Closed timber frame panel systems offer factory fitted insulation and now even windows and doors, as well as closed off internal wall linings - maximising the benefit of speed and allowing for more work to be completed offsite. As well as speed of build, timber frame also offers a competitive build cost - in reaching such a high proportion of the housing market it is evident that timber frame has equalled, if not bettered, the cost of traditional methods of construction. Offsite construction of timber frame eliminates any weather-dependant issues, which makes project planning more predictable and reduces the risk of setbacks. Working in exposed weather conditions, as with on site construction, can hinder many construction follow-on trades, such as electricians and plasterers who cannot start their work until the interior is protected from the elements. These trades can start much earlier in the construction programme of a timber frame house using offsite construction, meaning that the building can be finished sooner and in turn, allows for faster return on investment when it comes to commercial housing."
Offsite Construction - Setting a Benchmark for the Industry
"Not only has offsite construction set a benchmark in the industry in terms of speed of build, it is also ahead of the game delivering sustainability benefits. The government's 2025 Industrial Strategy identifies the importance of sustainability within the construction industry - with the aspiration of becoming dramatically more sustainable though its efficient approach to delivering low-carbon assets faster and at a lower cost. Timber frame manufactured offsite can provide U-Values of as little as 0.10 W/m2K, with traditional methods struggling to reach less than 0.25 W/m2K. Other additional sustainability benefits are often not immediately recognised from the outset but these can include low levels of wastage on site, significantly reduced transport impact - both for site deliveries and operatives - as well as health and safety improvements that have clearly surpassed many project teams.

Although the government has stated that the UK requires 250,000 new homes to be built each year in order to meet demand, last year only 141,000 were constructed. As Brandon Lewis stated - more innovation in housebuilding is long overdue in order to be able to achieve this target and this involves moving away from the traditional process of taking over 20 weeks to build an average home.

The housing market is starting to show an increased interest in offsite solution suppliers, with positive signs of investment and an increase in activity levels. Although offsite manufacturing is a relatively new method, not just to the UK but the rest of the world - it has demonstrated significant innovation within the sector. Substantial investments are being made in the development of offsite construction in order to increase manufacturing capacity and offer a wider range of solutions - therefore improving quality and value for money. The UK is now leading the way of an unprecedented increase in home-grown manufacturing talent and investment - positioning itself as a priority marketplace for leading overseas producers.

As houses become more advanced it is clear that factory based solutions will be better able to meet the needs of legislation. Offsite construction can adapt quickly to meet future challenges with fewer defects and ultimately lower costs."
For more information visit: www.framewiseltd.co.uk

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