Aug 17, 2017 Last Updated 11:36 AM, Aug 14, 2017

The challenges of hitting Government housing targets

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Mark Gibbs, Technical Director for Alumasc Facade Systems and designer of the company’s new Alumasc Ventilated System (AVS), shares his views on the challenges of hitting Government housing targets.

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Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis has set out an ambitious target to build one million new homes before the end of the current Parliament. Hitting such an aspirational target calls for immediate action and an increase in housing construction to at least 200,000 new homes per year.

This is a level of housebuilding that has not been seen in England since 1989. In the 2014-15 financial year, 124,520 new homes were completed in England, as published by the Independent. So how do we ensure that we are producing quality, desirable housing at a rapid rate?

It is clear that the housing market in Britain is broken and fixing it has been a key priority for both the current Government and their predecessors. There have been attempts to tackle the issue and stimulate increased supply by boosting demand with measures such as the Help-to-Buy scheme. Whatever the solution is, there is no getting away from the fact that if the UK is to meet its ambitious housebuilding targets, we are going to have to build an increasingly large number of homes in a limited time frame.

The benefits of offsite construction could be crucial to meeting targets that have repeatedly been missed. Specifying factory fitted components can help to mitigate skills shortages and time constraints. Similar to the methods of the automotive industry – the process of offsite construction provides many benefits of which could make huge strides in hitting housing targets.

It is easy however, to focus on the short term goal which is to construct a mass volume of housing, however in my opinion, it is equally important to consider the long term aspirations of creating good quality homes that will stand the test of time. This is not just a numbers game – it is crucial to specify materials and components that will develop homes to last for years to come.

Standardised buildings were the Government’s solution to tackling the post-war issue of a booming population in need of housing – not dissimilar to the problems that we are facing today. We must be cautious not to follow the same path of high-density, low-quality homes – lacking in appeal.

Despite the mistakes of the last century, standardisation of homes does not necessarily have to be viewed as a negative. For example, a guarantee of reduced time, optimum cost and high quality can be achieved, with consideration also given to whole life assessment.

Results of offsite construction can include early completion, user satisfaction and ease of maintenance and replacement – indicating that standardisation and prefabrication with an element of customisation have great potential for the future. There is no denying that the current demand for new housing indicates the need for such an approach to be carried out. In order to reap the benefits of offsite construction and standardised design, it is important that the distinction is made between process and product. Both standardisation and prefabrication are process driven and providing that high quality, long lasting, products are specified, we are able to avoid past misjudgements made by previous industry leaders.

In regard to housing – rather than viewing such processes as a barrier to innovation – providing the aims of any project are clearly mapped out from the early stages of design, it will be possible to maximise value and aesthetic appeal.

At Alumasc Facade Systems we have made our own steps towards tackling the issues of the housing crisis. The Alumasc Ventilated System (AVS) can be utilised as an offsite manufactured solution that improves efficiency and speed of construction as well as enhancing the quality of finish, whilst delivering the final aesthetics to meet the exacting requirements of architects, designers and housebuilders.

The initial product development remit was to design a ventilated system that would replicate traditional building aesthetics, whilst providing a lightweight solution that could be fixed directly to framed constructions. The main goal was to ensure the system was engineered to deliver structural stability across all applications whilst providing adaptability to all forms of modern construction.

AVS is BBA Certified, meaning that it has been tried and tested in regards to factors relating to strength and stability, fire performance, weather tightness, durability and longevity. These factors help to ensure that AVS, when coupled with offsite methods of construction and standardised design, can help to create quality, long lasting homes at a rapid rate where people will ultimately want to live. The system is erected via Alumasc’s network of registered installers to ensure correct application onsite.

Standardisation does not mean mass replication, although the fundamental system remains consistent – AVS is available in a choice of final finishes. Any brick in the marketplace can be colour matched via the use of lightweight acrylic brick slips. The system is also approved for use with high performance through-coloured silicone renders, along with an extensive range of dashing renders. This directly addresses the issues of mass standardisation by offering the unique final aesthetics which architects, designers and housebuilders are looking for.

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