The Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s recent report into the capacity of the homebuilding industry lays out the huge challenges that the housing white paper made very clear.
Undoubtedly the housing market is broken, and to rescue it we need a robust, modern and productive construction industry, alongside broader measures relating to tenure diversity and planning policy.
Diversity in the market will be a key driving force in modernising the construction industry, both in terms of tenure and the physical method of delivery. The government’s willingness, now with the select committee’s endorsement, to intervene in the market is promising for the entire sector, but more needs to be done to support modern methods of construction and construction innovation.
A lack of unified and recognised accreditation continues to prevent offsite construction from fulfilling its potential. Although the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) has come a long way in creating confidence in pre-manufactured buildings, it is still nowhere near well known enough and has some scalability limitations without further support.
Lack of knowledge
More generally, there is a lack of knowledge about pre-manufactured quality assurance schemes among lenders and insurers, as well as the wider valuation surveyor community. The select committee’s recommendation that the government should give its full support to a single, unified accreditation platform to build confidence in offsite methods is a sound one. However, the government must remain technology agnostic within the pre-manufactured market in order not to hamper competition - and therefore innovation - within the market.
What’s more, the current BOPAS proposals to extend its cover from 60 to 100 years is an example of what is needed in order to move away from a misconception of pre-manufacturing being only for temporary buildings.
Offsite construction needs to be accredited on a par with traditional build longevity, effectively in perpetuity for structural elements. There is no reason why this cannot be the case for many of the high-performance systems currently available or in development.
As an industry, we must continue to push and drive the change needed. Recognising the problem is not the same as finding solutions and then implementing them. While the select committee’s report sets out the major challenges ahead, as did the white paper, it is now about action.
Industry stakeholders and government need to be prepared to work collaboratively to make sure the construction industry and the housing market are both fit for purpose.