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The housing industry is going through a turbulent period in the UK. With the country’s population steadily on the increase, predicted to pass 70 million people by 2026, and a serious lack of affordable housing for many first-time homeowners and immigrants, the challenge facing builders and planners in the housing industry has never been greater: especially as the country needs to deliver 300,000 homes per year.
However, change is on the horizon. Though the political turmoil that has accompanied the UK’s decision to leave the European Union points to a shortage in the technical skills required to build safe, modern houses in the large numbers required, the building industry is also going through somewhat of a revolution. New ideas and new ways of manufacturing new-builds are slowly gaining traction within the building sector, and with them come the chance to reshape the market.
Here’s what’s new in the world of new-builds.
Brexit and off-site builds
Since Britain voted to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016, the ramifications of Brexit have rippled through the British economy, with the potential to affect the building sector too. The availability and cost of labour and building materials has increased according to the latest HBF Surveys, whilst higher rates of inflation and a weaker pound also pose difficulties to housing companies wanting to expand their operations in 2018.
Once Britain leaves the EU, there will also be increased difficulties in sourcing skilled EU labour, and a corresponding shortage of skilled builders, as well as an increase in manufacturing costs. However, a new trend is rising in popularity, which has the potential to solve this problem: off-site building. 70% of the components of a traditional build can now be put together off-site, reducing reliance on skilled tradespeople and resulting in a faster build time.
This solution has steadily been increasing in popularity over the past few years: though it’s primarily used for constructing flats and high-rises, more and more companies have been adopting this approach: Marriott International recently announced its intention to use modular construction to build 13% of its developments in North America in 2017, for instance, and many universities are using it to construct student accommodation in the UK. When it comes to the housing market, it’d be foolish to discount off-site builds.
The popularity of off-site building and modular construction has also been augmented by the rise of AI technology when it comes to housing. Robotics have the potential to revolutionise building, and not only when it comes to designing houses: the American company Apis Cor printed the first house in twenty-four hours in Moscow earlier this year, whilst SAM the bricklaying robot can work together with a mason to lay 3,000 bricks a day: six times faster than a human.
SAM isn’t a far-off concept, either; it’s due to be rolled out across the UK over the next two years, whilst drones have also become a popular tool for scanning sites, carrying out construction site inspections and using laser scanning to capturing the exact detail of new builds or site topography. Expect AI to become a mainstream in the building industry over the next few years: thanks to its speed, versatility and accuracy, it won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
The government has also risen to the challenge of providing affordable homes to Britain’s house-strapped population. Their most recent paper on ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ has laid out several bold plans which will affect the new-build sector over the coming years, most notably the recent Built to Rent Fund, which provides loans to cover up to 50% of development costs for houses that are being built exclusively for rental purposes. Similarly, £3bn has also been invested in a Home Building Fund to encourage small, independent builders to enter a housing market in which 60% of homes are built by just ten companies.
The government is also focusing on giving local authorities the power and tools to speed up new-build constructions, and making it easier for developers to build houses on schedule: the new paper promises to make it easier for councils to issue completion notices and grant planning permission, all of which will considerably speed up the production of new housing. The result? A market that makes it easier for companies to construct new housing properties and, hopefully, flourish as a result.
Whether it’s the changing political climate or the opportunities that AI is presenting on construction sites and at the design stage, it’s clear that the future of new builds is destined to be both exciting and innovative.
It’s a future that we at PSR Solutions want to be a part of. We pride ourselves on keeping up to date with the latest developments in the housing market so we can continue matching the best people in construction to the best job opportunities. Find out more about what we do here, or browse our jobs in construction and building here.
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