A quick fix for house-building challenges

Steve Bryceson, Marley Eternit’s technical advisory services manager
Steve Bryceson, Marley Eternit’s technical advisory services manager

The start of 2016 has seen some very positive news for the house-building sector, with a 4% rise in new properties built in the fourth quarter of 2015 (Office for National Statistics) and the NHBC reporting the highest level of new homes registered in the UK for eight years.

According to the NHBC, there were 156,140 new homes registered in the UK in 2015, with major house-builders significantly ramping up construction levels to meet growing demand for new homes, brought about by increased rates of mortgage lending and policies from the Government, such as Help to Buy.

Although this is very welcome news and demonstrates that the efforts of the whole house-building sector and the Government are starting to have an impact, there is still a long way to go to fix the chronic shortage of quality new homes in the UK. If house-builders are to significantly increase output in order to meet the Government pledge of one million new homes during this Parliament, there are several hurdles to overcome and the development of new easy-to-fix products, like our ground-breaking Lincoln pantile, could play a significant role in helping them to overcome some of these challenges.

Barriers to building
The skills shortage has already been widely discussed in RCI but we can’t over-emphasise the size of this barrier to building more new homes in the UK. According to David Thomas, chief executive of Barratt Developments, the skills shortage is the number one challenge for house-builders. The lack of skilled labour means not only is it harder to find, but it is more expensive and subcontractors are in a better position to be able to choose the jobs where they will be able to make the most margin.

At the same time as demanding a significant boost in new homes, the Government has also set another challenge for the UK building industry, putting more pressure on the sector to build more quickly. The Construction 2025 report aims for 50% faster project delivery for both new build and refurbishment assets in the next ten years. To achieve this, as well as embracing technology such as BIM and off-site manufacturing, it is clear there will need to be a radical rethink of the materials used to build new homes.

However, increasing build speed with less skilled labour isn’t the only challenge facing house-builders. New schemes such as the BRE Home Quality Mark and industry bodies like the NHBC, are also making sure that quality is as much of a priority as quantity when it comes to building new homes.

More contemporary roof designs
The focus on quality and higher specifications could be key for house-builders as the growing number of new build sites means competition is fierce. With so many new developments under way, house buyers have much more choice and differentiation is vital. We are noticing that when it comes to roofing, house-builders are increasingly looking to create more contemporary roof designs, using quality traditional materials like clay or a slate effect tile, to differentiate their homes as well as meet local planning requirements. Now they also have to consider the impact of the new BS 5534 fixings requirements on the length of roofing programmes.
As the house-building industry looks to significantly increase output while increasing speed of construction, roofing manufacturers and contractors have a role to play in
developing innovative methods that rely less on specialist skills, save time on site and provide an easy way to comply with standards.

However, planning and local vernacular are sometimes barriers to being able to use easier to fix roofing products. For example, slate effect tiles are now widely accepted by planners as an alternative to natural slate, yet house-builders are much more restricted when it comes to clay tiles, where regional variances mean planning not only dictates the material and colour, but also the profile of a tile.

In some parts of the country, planning requires traditional clay pantiles to be used – presenting a challenge for house-builders who need to build faster. In response to this specific problem, at Marley Eternit we have developed a new take on a classic clay pantile, which means roofing contractors can offer an innovative time saving approach to house-builders who need traditional pantiles for planning or local vernacular purposes.

The newly launched Lincoln tile is the first of its kind, offering a traditional pantile look but designed to reduce installation time. With a classic s-curve profile, thin leading edge and low pitch capability, the Lincoln has a completely ‘open-gauge’ to speed up installation. What’s more, its compatible fixings mean it can be installed to meet the latest BS 5534 fixing requirements and NHBC technical standards quickly and easily.

This innovative development means getting the traditional rustic pantile aesthetic is now as easy as fixing a concrete interlocking tile. The product gives contractors the opportunity to expand their skill sets, opening up clay projects to those who may not have previously priced the jobs because they didn’t have the specialist skills required.

While roofing products on their own can’t solve all the problems faced by house-builders, we believe that for areas where traditional pantiles have to be used, this tile really will revolutionise the clay market and mean sub-contractors and house-builders alike will be able to reduce the time and cost on site, without needing specialist skilled labour.

If manufacturers, sub-contractors and house-builders worked together to introduce innovative time and labour saving materials like these across all parts of the building, then it could significantly cut the time it takes to build new homes in the UK, but still deliver the high quality and aesthetic required.

www.marleyeternit.co.uk