Building for quality
Delivering quality new homes and communities for social value
Report from – Gordon Miller
The quantity and quality of new houses has been high on the agenda in recent months, especially during hustings. Headlines regularly scream “housing crisis: 250,000 new homes needed each year”. The Conservative White Paper, published in February, called the housing system broken and proposed several policies to boost SME housebuilders, open up brownfield land to build on, and encourage offsite construction.
The measures are intended to expedite housebuilding, and circumvent the skills shortages that create delays. In its manifesto, the Conservatives vowed “more homes will not mean poor quality homes”. Indeed, an emphasis on quality housebuilding not only quantity was oft repeated in all parties’ manifestos. Building for quality, then, is fittingly the focus of the Build4Quality conference, taking place on 21 September 2017 and Building4Change caught up with some of the speakers to understand some of the concepts underpinning the quality challenge.
Gwyn Roberts, Home Quality Mark Project (HQM) Lead believes that the notion of quality should be an all-encompassing feature of newbuilds. “Quality homes are a sustainable investment for the government,” he tells Building4Change. “They should be built with minimal environmental impact, and using sustainable methods of construction. Quality in housing must also include creating homes with proximity to local transport hubs and amenities, in addition to utilising energy-saving methods to improve indoor air quality and the health and wellbeing of occupants.”
If, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is, then building quality homes for people is of paramount importance. Redrow aim to build high quality homes with distinctive characteristics but people’s homes do not sit in isolation of their surroundings rather they piece together to form a community, a place.
They commissioned a consumer report that found 87% of those surveyed said being part of a community is important to them, but 81% do not think the government is currently doing enough to build communities. Acting upon the findings, as part of its homebuilding plans, Redrow has committed to increased community based shared work spaces and provision of sport and recreation to derive positive health benefits for our ageing population.
According to Rob MacDiarmid, Group Sustainability Director, Redrow, the company has used the survey to inform its developments. "Taking on board the survey, we have based our creation of quality new homes and communities on placemaking principles. For example, within our Nature for People principle we set aside spaces for residents to socialise through the creation of, for example, parks, playgrounds, focal points, biodiversity bridges, and stopping and crossing points where pathways intersect. It all helps create quality outcomes."
Delivering quality, sustainable outcomes increasingly includes an emphasis on offsite factory manufactured housing. Such volumetric and modular methods of construction have come to the fore as enlightened housebuilders recognise the efficiency, expediency, environmental and social benefits they bring. At a time of skills shortages in the industry, which are likely to be exacerbated in the short term due to Brexit implications, they also meet workplace demand challenges.
“Bridging the skills gap in construction is a high priority,” says Pauline Traetto, Director of BRE Academy. “It must be addressed in the education system by ensuring young people are easily able to access construction careers information and training. Construction is a fulfilling and financially stable career, and must be promoted to youngsters as such in order to help the construction industry to thrive when we leave the EU.
“Training should also be directed towards sustainable and modern building methods, especially the specific skills required for off-site construction. Investing in high-quality education and opportunities in this sector will help ensure that high quality and energy-efficient homes are built in response to the current housing crisis.”
Skills training overhaul was a key recommendation of the Mark Farmer authored Modernise or Die, the UK Government’s Review of the Construction Labour Market Model, jointly sponsored by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
In his keynote address at the Offsite Outlooks conference earlier this year, which examined offsite construction in the context of the emerging build-to-rent sector, Farmer highlighted the acute quality issue facing the industry. “For a number of reasons outlined in Modernise or Die, there is a systemic failure in quality in housebuilding in the country. Among other solutions and the need for greater collaboration and a shift to digital working, the more offsite fabrication [we have] in a factory environment, the more certain the outcome will be.”
A year on from the publication of that report, Farmer will update his diagnosis of housebuilding at this year’s Build4Quality and draw out his contention that large scale adoption of offsite methods of construction are critical to deliver the quality homes required at the scale needed.
Mark Farmer, Gwyn Roberts, Rob MacDiarmid and Pauline Traetto are among the speaker panel at the third annual Build4Quality Conference, which will act as a vital forum to address and debate the sector's issues, challenges, solutions and opportunities in order to deliver the quality homes and communities the nation requires. The day has six-hour CPD accreditation.
- When: 21 September, 2017
- Where: BRE Innovation Park, Bucknalls Lane, Watford WD25 9NH
- Book now: Register before 30 June 2017, using discount code EB50, to receive an early bird discount of £50 against the full delegate day rate of £195