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John Whalley, MD of Nationwide Windows & Doors, the UK’s leading fenestration partner for the public and private refurbishment and new build sectors, discusses how if done properly, offsite construction could well be the solution to the solve the housing crisis.
Four million residents live in social housing across the UK and around 79,000 families are stuck in temporary accommodation. It’s no surprise that the impact of dwindling social housing stocks from decades of counter policies is taking its toll. The government has made steps to combat these issues, with targets for new homes and a focus on affordable housing, but many of these aims seem unachievable in the current market. Aside from the lack of decent, affordable homes, the supply chain tasked with delivering these targets is faced with other challenges. Interest rate increases are affecting borrowing. There are less than six months to the Brexit deadline, and still no clear solution is available. The uncertainty over the UK’s future role in Europe, is already leading to increases in material costs, along with rising concerns over the migrant workforce that is currently plugging the gap in the ever-expanding skills shortage. As an industry, we need to reform and invest in innovations that we can offer social housing landlords and housebuilders alike. Regardless of the uncertainties, there is demand – and demand creates opportunity.
Where Decent Homes made a good contribution to raising the standards of existing social housing stock, it still leaves around quarter of a million homes that do not meet the standard and a funding backlog of £1.6billion. Even where programmes have been completed, the demand to maintain standards continues. The bigger issue however is the need for more housing – the government’s target of one million homes by 2020 is ambitious, raising concerns about where, how and by whom these new homes are going to be delivered. It is reported that a minimum of 79,000 new affordable homes need to be built every year, but significantly less were delivered in 2017/18.
The recently published Social Housing Green Paper is a positive step. It demonstrates an understanding of the severity of the housing crisis and offers opportunity to make steps towards reforming the social housing sector through improving fairness, quality and safety to residents.
Nationwide Windows & Doors has been working in the housing sector for over thirty years. In many respects our business has been shaped by the changing demands of social housing supply – whether that’s refurbishment or new build – and we have developed a deep understanding of the pressures faced by all involved. We’ve been at the forefront of many developments over the years, and as we look forward we believe the next key driver to shape the industry will be Offsite Construction.
Although still in its infancy – only accounting for around 10% of industry output – there is massive potential for offsite construction to fill the housing gap. The additional £1.4bn of funding for affordable homes from the government, which comes with a target to increase offsite construction, represents a clear opportunity for growth. And it is expected that 50% of the construction industry will look to use offsite construction solutions over the next five years.
Already recognised for its cost, speed and performance benefits, investment and innovation is driving the concept forward commercially. The supply chain is evolving, and real success will come from the effective integration of both onsite and offsite functions – a comprehensive understanding of both aspects is required and the best way to achieve this will be through collaborative partnership.
Working closely with a small number of partners, each with their own knowledge of supply into the housing sector, Nationwide has developed a new service offering that will see windows pre-installed but commissioned onsite by our expert installations teams.
By working together on a collaborative concept, we will be delivering an excellent solution to build better quality affordable housing and help combat the housing crisis we are facing. Initial results from trials has been excellent.
Nationwide will be exhibiting our new concept at UK Construction Week in October and at the Offsite Show in November.