The offsite construction sector accounts for an estimated 7% of total construction output in the UK, worth £1.5bn to the economy. Offsite technologies now have the potential to address some of the most persistent challenges facing the industry, including severe skills shortages and drive to eradicate risks to workers’ health and safety onsite.
The debate is now raging in the housing sector, where the Government’s plan to build two million homes by 2020 is thought to be unachievable without a rapid switch towards alternative construction methods.
For this reason house builders are working closely with manufacturers looking for solutions for a quicker build programme. Offsite technologies come in different shapes and complexities. The much reported skills shortage is a reality and while complete factory built or modular houses are not appearing in volume, the use of offsite components is now widespread.
Offsite is not being promoted as the answer to every situation because for some bespoke builds with a high degree of personalisation, factory built offsite solutions may not be cost effective. For many house builders however, new offsite options are delivering welcome advantages for both the designer and the client.
A dormer window would be a good example of a labour intensive task for a skilled joiner onsite and requires multiple trades to construct and finish it. Compare that process to a factory built dormer which can benefit from economies of scale and the process can be quality managed at every stage of production. The process to insulate the dormer in a factory environment for example is likely to result in a far superior finish without voids or gaps which could occur if insulated onsite leading in time to cold bridging problems.
In a tough market, first impressions count and offsite components can add considerable kerb appeal to volumetric housing. IG Elements provide a range of offsite solutions which will provide answers to the well documented skills shortage and the housing crisis.
In an increasingly unpredictable world, we believe the best response is to focus on innovation which enhances the way we work and meets the challenges faced by the industry today.
Key challenge to close the gap between designed and built performance should feature heavily within the R&D team of any building material manufacturer. It is important that the construction industry delivers both the design quality and build quality of the architect’s vision, unhindered by an onsite shortage of skills or labour.
This is a challenge for construction material producers, to innovate and evolve simple-to-use products, which facilitate the efficient delivery of that vision.
Working in partnership with the house builders
At IG Elements, we are addressing these challenges through a process of continuous improvement and we always welcome feedback and engagement with housebuilders to understand their views and priorities.
Early engagement is important between a supplier and a house builder. If the supplier can be involved at design stages then it is more efficient and a simple and straightforward process to incorporate the details into drawing packages. It also ensures the products are developed to meet site requirements cost effectively but most importantly in a way that won’t threaten the original design.
At IG Elements, we take time to understand our customers and their build process and how best we can ensure the smooth running of the supply process. We liaise with the build teams at every stage of the process, from the pre-start meetings right through to after sales support.
Some of the feedback we have received from customers has resulted in enhancement to our service including new Site Support Packs and Minor Repair Kits which negate the need for call-out charges for minor onsite issues.
We will continue to engage further and deeper with house builders who are looking for new solutions to their everyday needs in the face of changing demands. Ease of installation is vital as the labour market tightens and skills shortages mount. Our job is to innovate for easier installation, reducing the number of tasks to be completed onsite.
Predicting what 2018 has in store for our industry is a challenge but one thing for sure is that it will involve more change. At IG Elements, our response is to increase investment in innovation with a clear focus on making things easier and more efficient for house builders.
IG Elements is at the forefront of the offsite manufacturing sector and supply many of the UK’s leading house builders with a range of factory built components.