Whether the construction industry has the manpower and skills to achieve the Government’s target of adding an extra 300,000 new homes per annum to the housing stock for the next decade is often queried. Gary Ramsay spoke to Darren Richards, Managing Director of offsite experts, Cogent Consulting about what is genuinely achievable.
Since the vague and misleading phrase of ‘modern methods of construction’ (MMC) was first coined by Lord Rooker, Minister for Housing for the Labour Government in power at the turn of the millennium, it has recently become synonymous as the saviour of a skillsstarved housebuilding industry and the present Government’s favoured tool to turn around an ailing sector. There is no doubt that Government policy has given a major boost to manufacturers and designers of offsite systems, even though the adoption of offsite methods is already widespread. “Ten years ago, there were relatively few UK manufacturers operating within the offsite arena - today there are more than 400,” says Darren. “Cogent calculates the UK offsite market is worth about £10 billion and growing at something like 30% per annum. Clients are now pushing contractors to provide offsite solutions, but the construction team set-up is usually very traditional, with contractor, QS, architect and engineer playing their usual roles. Even now many projects that employ offsite methods often start out as traditional designs.” To persuade people to design for offsite methods from the outset, Cogent has joined forces with publisher of Offsite Magazine Radar Communications, to create a series of umbrella initiatives that hope to unite the various emerging technologies and to promote offsite principles throughout the supply chain. These initiatives include seminar and conference programmes, study tour activities, manufacturing facility open days and dedicated training sessions through the Offsite Academy. Cogent has also developed a partnership
arrangement with Futurebuild – formerly Ecobuild, the UK’s largest and longest established building technologies event – to ensure that offsite thinking is firmly at the heart of the event.
As the Government’s continues its commitment to offsite manufacture, demand for offsite methods are strongest in the social/affordable housing sector and with local authorities now re-entering the housing development arena, the demand is set to grow more rapidly. “The pressure is now really on,” says Darren “The Government wants the registered providers and local authorities to build 60,000 units next year and it wants 50% of them to be built using ‘modern methods’.” The speculative housebuilders in the private sector are not far behind the registered providers in exploring new methods. All the top 10 housebuilders are exploring the use of offsite methods and some have invested heavily in their own systems.
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