The call for a quick and sustainable solution to the current housing shortage has created an opportunity for offsite construction to become a key building method to meet the demand in the housing industry. In order to rectify the current shortfalls, modern and innovative methods of construction must be adopted to provide quick, sustainable and energy-efficient homes.
Kingspan Timber Solutions’ Business Unit Director, Ian Loughnane, offers his perspective on the offsite construction in the housing industry:
“Back in February 2013 the Offsite Housing Review was published by the Construction Industry Council with the help of research partners from across the sector and Government. The most striking aspect of the investigation was the broad level of agreement amongst experts that the solution to the shortfall in housing stock would require the extensive use of prefabricated building techniques. The timber frame industry can certainly answer that call when it comes, which surely it must. The impetus required will undoubtedly be Government led but it’s not just about the numbers. As a nation we need affordable, well designed and energy efficient homes that address the significant issues of fuel poverty and climate change.
This combination of requirements plays to the strengths of timber frame and structural insulated panels (SIPS), which deliver the sustainable solution. The industry has invested heavily in getting fabric solutions that deliver high performance without the future maintenance costs that non-fabric solutions entail. Offsite construction technology delivers a predictable performance level, with fewer construction defects or wasted materials. We are able to provide a marked decrease in the build time with a marked increase in the standard of build. This combination of requirements plays to the strengths of timber technology which offers a low-energy design as standard.
The construction of a house maximising offsite technology typically takes four to six weeks, which is nearly a quarter of the time taken by traditional methods with an average timescale of around twenty weeks, providing weather conditions permit. Offsite methods reduce the potential impact of bad weather on build-times and swift weather-proofing of the structures diminishes delays for follow on trades.
It is not just the housing sector that is looking to exploit the benefits of offsite construction to meet current demands. The education sector is also facing a shortage of almost 900,000 school places and the government has pledged an investment of circa £2 billion to refurbish and rebuild 277 schools. The speed and ease that offsite construction provides is crucial to fitting in with the timeline demands that are unique to schools and the academic year. That is why offsite is becoming the choice method of building in the education sector, matching similar requirements to the housing industry.
The market is definitely showing higher levels of optimism amongst the timber offsite solution suppliers, with more positive signs of investment and an increase in activity levels. The transition to a low-carbon economy presents our industry with great opportunities for growth. Environmental considerations will transform how our buildings are constructed, what materials are used and the methods employed. I believe that we are now on the cusp of the predicted ‘sea-change’ and that the time is right for the construction industry to embrace innovative timber technology and offsite techniques to develop better buildings at a rapid rate to enhance lives, minimise the environmental impact and reduce energy costs for occupants for many years to come.
To find out more about Kingspan Timber Solutions visit: www.kingspantimbersolutions.co.uk
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