The industry recognises that there are a multitude of challenges facing the social housing sector when it comes to building new properties.
However, with new products and solutions available in addition to the more traditional methods, social housing has the opportunity to look at alternative methods to help solve some of its challenges.
When it comes to building new affordable homes in the UK, demand is outstripping supply. Although according to the Construction Products Association the industry was forecasted to grow in 2016, the social housing sector still seems to be facing a number of challenges. To build new housing, there are a wide range of obstacles to overcome - funding, availability of land, planning permissions, drawn-out application processes and political red tape to name a few. In fact, just last week former environment minister Alan Kelly warned that Government targets for social housing are likely to be missed due to six state-owned sites not having being released on time.
Those working within social housing will be well aware of the recent spotlight thrown onto this issue last year, the Government pledged a shake-up of the system to drive council efficiency and innovation. Among the proposals was the opportunity to fast track some planning applications which certainly would be a step in the right direction, but for this and other procedures to have an impact, they actually need to be implemented.
The private sector outstrips social housing in its levels of autonomy to innovate and deliver. Unfortunately, for those housing associations and local authorities that do manage to navigate the complicated path to new builds and are actually in a position to go ahead, 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 make a significant and 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 less than two weeks per floor to construct a medium rise building. Metframe sections are manufactured to precise lengths, before being shipped to authorised installers where the panels are assembled off-site, speeding up the construction process.
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. There is no risk for the social housing industry in looking at modern methods of construction such as Metframe, as it is specified to the exacting requirements of each client or individual project, including where a BIM Level 2 environment is required.
Moving forward, it’s important that manufacturers engage with social housing at every level, to help illustrate the news methods available to them, and the benefits it can bring.
Written by By Ryan Simmonds, Sales Director of Metsec Framing