How off-site construction can help meet housing targets

As timber frame continues to grow its share of the housing market, Alex Goodfellow, Group Managing Director of Witney-based building materials supplier Stewart Milne Timber Systems, draws on more than 30 years of experience in the house-building industry to explain why off-site construction with timber systems could be key to delivering new home targets across the UK.

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s the UK Government continues to focus on delivering 400,000 new homes by 2020, its Housing White Paper, published earlier this year, laid out its plans to “fix the broken housing market” and made it clear that the way new homes are delivered has to change in order to meet the UK’s housing needs.

Off-site construction with timber systems offers a solution that could alleviate many of the issues currently facing the construction sector while offering opportunities for increased volume and better return on investment. Off-site construction is an established method to deliver homes with guaranteed quality, precision-engineered to meet a variety of performance standards.

A mainstream and intelligent way to build, off-site construction with timber systems presents cost-effectiveness, speed and energy-efficiency advantages from inception to construction, while value engineering both the design and the build. Manufacturing off-site improves speed of build. A typical four-bedroom home can be wind and watertight within five days compared to several weeks for masonry build. The timber system superstructure for a mid-size house can be manufactured in our automated facility in just 120 minutes.

With no weather delays, multiple trades can work across the project concurrently. The option of including factory-fitted windows and door frames also reduces build time on site and further enhances quality while reducing site waste. Building with timber frame comes with a guaranteed supply chain with call offs in as little as three weeks and no capacity or material restrictions.

At our Witney and Aberdeen facilities, we have the capacity to manufacture 10,000 homes per year, or 28 homes per day and we can increase our capacity to accommodate larger projects and shorter lead times to meet client requirements. Off-site construction with timber systems offers clear benefits for the industry and can deliver new homes in a cost- and time-efficient way. In recent years, the timber frame share of the housing market has increased as developers realise the benefits timber frame can bring to a project. We are seeing that trend continue as the focus in the UK remains on meeting current and future housing needs.

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