The latest in a series of building technology events – Explore Offsite in the Housing Sector – was declared a huge success yesterday by over 250 delegates and exhibitors. Held at the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham, the combined conference and exhibition highlighted the benefits of offsite construction in the housing sector. Much emphasis was placed on how this ever-evolving method of construction, which has been hailed as a major solution in resolving the current UK’s housing crisis, can build better homes at a faster pace.
The day kicked off with a video address by Housing & Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, who stated the need to deliver ‘good quality, well built homes, built in a way like never before.’ In order to change the way the UK builds more homes the Minister urged the industry to embrace new technology – referring to offsite construction as ‘advanced housing manufacture.’
The video address was followed up by presentations from some of the industry’s leading pioneers, including Dr Ashley Lane – Group Partnerships Director for Persimmon Homes, who delved into the history of offsite construction and spoke about how it has progressed in recent years through product range rationalisation, cost reduction measures, product technology and the maturity of trade attitudes. Other presentations came from the likes of Oliver Novakovic; Technical and Innovation Director, Barratt Developments, who spoke about why they are embracing the best new methods of on and offsite construction to increase build efficiency and to illustrate the challenge ahead , Oliver said: “To reach the 250,000 homes needed, we would need another five Barrett PLC’s!” Rory Bergin; Partner at HTA Design delivered a presentation focused on modular buildings for the private rental sector. Alex Smith; Associate, Hawkins/Brown and Nick Milestone; Managing Director, B & K Structures spoke together about their latest project, Banyan Wharf – the tallest timber tower in the UK.
By midmorning there was a noticeable buzz throughout the conference centre, with delegates and exhibitors, from all areas of the industry, sharing their opinions on the presentations. Late morning saw speeches from social housing professionals, including, John Skivington and Tony Woods; LHC, with the presentation – ‘New Housing Supply – the need for new models of delivery.’ Simon Vevers and Jim Martin from Hyde Housing Group spoke about how capacity can only be increased through offsite construction. Jim McMillan and Kevin Williams from Great Places Housing Group gave an update on volumetric processes and collaboration in the housing sector, declaring: “We don’t want to be building five or six hundred houses – we want to build five or six thousand houses!” John Bedford; Director of Project Development, Accord Housing gave his views on housing systems, with the comment: “We are not trying to change what the industry does well – but do more of what is needed.”
Before a break for lunch, there was the launch of the Offsite Construction Awards, which will celebrate innovation, best practice and expertise in offsite manufacturing and construction. The awards will be presented at a Drinks Reception on Wednesday 07 October 2015 as part of UK Construction Week at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham.
The afternoon kicked off with a presentation on streamlining compliance through design from Martin Taylor, Technical Business Development Director for LABC. Under the banners of ‘Don’t compromise – optimise,’ Mark Stevenson, Managing Director of Kingspan Timber Solutions followed with a huge focus on the importance of addressing customer’s needs, putting them at the heart of the process.
Bryan Woodley; Managing Director, Val-U-Therm presented ‘High Performance Building Envelope Design to Achieve PassivHaus Standards’ before Steve Wightman, Managing Director of Caledonian Modular explored the main issues of private residential housebuilding, posing the question: “Is cost really the main issue anymore? Or is speed of construction and programme certainty?”
The final presentation was given by industry leader, Adam Greenfield; Managing Director, Nordic Construction stating that the benefits of offsite construction from a contractor’s perspective are predictability and repetition. Adam Greenfield compared offsite construction to his days of working onsite in the dirt and dust, concluding that offsite construction means clean factories and clean environments that ultimately deliver higher quality, enhanced health and safety and entirely predictable costs.
The event was rounded up by Chairman, Darren Richards, highlighting the key themes of the day and thanking everyone for attending. Delegates were left both inspired and satisfied by the informative speeches and the great networking opportunities that Explore Offsite had provided. Explore Offsite will continue to travel the UK with the upcoming event.
The next Explore Offsite event – Offsite in the Commercial Sector, is taking place on 24 November 2015, in Manchester