If there is one word which will help ameliorate Britain’s housing crisis in 2019 – it’s off-site.
Alas of course the word alone is not enough, but perhaps saying it at every opportunity will work like osmosis and help get the message out there that if we want to achieve anything like our housing targets we must (and the experts tell us this) embrace more efficient construction processes.
We’ve been banging on about the merits of off-site construction for some time. Not just because timber (and steel) framers are particularly keen on using our products, but because we genuinely believe that focusing more on this speedier and easier method of construction will enable us to deliver more of the homes we need.
This year has seen a number of initiatives designed to unlock the housebuilding blockage – and the publication of a campaigning think tank report aimed at fixing the broken housing system.
These range from lifting the council housing borrowing cap, freeing up local authorities to build more of their own council homes, a £2 billion social housing boost to fund 40,000 new homes up until 2029, and £500 million of extra cash to pay for housing infrastructure.
The London Assembly has vowed to concentrate on building more timber framed properties to help it deliver the 65,000 new homes it needs every year over the next decade, and the city’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has invested £50,000 towards a developers toolkit to speed up the process.
With such a massive gap between targets and start-on-sites, as many as possible of these much-needed homes should be constructed off-site, both to make the process speedier and to take on board the reality that the construction industry is suffering from a severe skills shortage.
Building a timber frame house is around 30% faster than brick and block. With a shrinking workforce, and the potential that this situation could worsen in the light of Brexit, off-site is a vital way of creating the homes we desperately need in this country.
Much of the work, such as wiring, plumbing and insulation, takes place in the factory – which means that the weather can’t hamper the build process. And added to that the Actis Hybrid insulation system takes between 25% and 50% less time to install than traditional alternatives – which all helps to speed things up.
So, if you don’t know yet what to ask Santa for Christmas – perhaps whisper the word ‘off-site’ to him and see what you find in your stocking.