18th April 2016 | Here, Ryan Simmonds, Sales Director of Metsec Framing, recognises that there are a multitude of challenges facing the social housing sector when it comes to building new properties. However, is a hesitancy to move away from traditional build methods and proactively engage with modern methods of construction –making matters worse?
When it comes to building new affordable homes in the UK, demand is outstripping supply. Although according to the Construction Products Association, the industry is forecast to grow in in 2016 , the social housing sector is still likely to suffer. This is because to build new housing, there are a wide range of challenges to overcome - funding, availability of land, planning permissions, drawn out application processes and political red tape to name a few.
Anyone working within social housing will be well aware of the recent spotlight thrown onto this issue and in 2015, the Government pledged a shake up of the system to drive council efficiency and innovation. For example, among the proposals was the opportunity to fast track some planning applications. This would be a positive step in the right direction but of course this, and other procedures need to be implemented.
Clearly, the private sector has more autonomy to innovate and deliver. Unfortunately, for those HAs and local authorities that do manage to navigate the complicated path to construction and are actually in a position to build – it then becomes crucial to achieve excellent standards of construction, quickly and at a reasonable price.
At this stage, and perhaps adding yet another obstacle is an institutionalised hesitancy towards change. Modern methods of construction are often overlooked - yet systems such as light gauge steel framing can really make a positive difference.
For example, a pre-panelised steel framing system such as Metframe, provides a solid option for medium-rise flats. Crucially, it can take under two weeks per floor to construct a medium rise building. This is because Metframe sections are manufactured to precise lengths, before being shipped to authorised installers where the panels are assembled off-site.
In addition, the external wall panels are pre-clad with either cement particle board or rigid insulation, which ensures that a weather tight envelope is achieved quickly. As part of the Metframe construction process, all panels are delivered to site in the required erection sequence, which also saves time.
These time saving benefits on site can have significant impact on overall build times as well as project costs – often helping to off-set the initial capital outlay . Perhaps, we as manufacturers need to engage with all departments within social housing better, to help justify the use of methods new to the public sector but by no means new to construction so that social housing too – can reap the rewards.