Offsite construction: How can Ireland help resolve the London housing crisis?

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London’s rising population, high property prices and skills shortages are cranking up the already intense pressure on housing supply. Anne Corr of Enterprise Ireland discusses Ireland’s close trade ties and world-leading commitment to digital and offsite construction could hold the answer to tackling the crisis

With the UK government looking to build 300,000 homes a year, it is clear the need for quality housing in London and the wider UK is on the rise. However, the industry is struggling to keep up with the demand of future developments – especially in London. There are several contributing factors for this: the rising population, the price of property, the availability of skilled workers and, arguably, limited space to build. Supply is an ongoing challenge as demand continues to increase. This is where Ireland can help offer a solution with their innovative modern methods of construction.

Enterprise Ireland supports the trade of €1.29bn worth of construction products and services to the UK, making it its most dynamic and important trading partner. Ireland is a natural choice for offsite with its nearshore capabilities; however, the reasons behind the country being favoured for offsite go much deeper than mere proximity. Ireland is heavily committed to investing in the construction industry and is at the forefront of introducing innovative technologies.

The country offers a competitive advantage and is a world leader in digital construction, BIM, low carbon and lean offsite manufacturing. With the UK and Ireland holding such strong trade ties, both countries mutually benefit through ongoing collaboration and together are finding solutions to better futureproof the industry.

In February 2017, the UK government pledged to invest more in the offsite construction industry – a huge positive and Enterprise Ireland is keen to develop and support this to help meet ongoing housing demand.

To open up the conversation around offsite further, Enterprise Ireland recently brought together key stakeholders across the UK and Irish construction industries to discuss the challenges surrounding the London housing crisis and the solutions that offsite could provide.

Some of the benefits of building offsite include:

Doubles the capacity

  • While the houses are being produced offsite in a factory setting, the main site is freed up allowing other work to be continued, which in turn speeds up the entire construction process considerably.

Improves quality & performance

  • Quality is improved and post-handover defects are reduced.

Helps overcome constraints

  • Architects can use modular construction to overcome the constraints of tight space requirements of inner cities while creating quality and inspirational design.

Reduces environmental impact

  • Offsite is a more sustainable construction approach due to the reduction in carbon footprint, as well as reduced impact upon local environments as waste is substantially decreased.

Decreases external delays

  • Manufacturing of homes in factory conditions is unaffected by the delays caused by weather. For example, heavy snowfall from the “Beast from the East” caused Britain’s construction industry to grind to a halt, showing the biggest fall in activity since immediately after the Brexit vote.

Addresses the skills shortage

  • Offsite construction is a means to addressing the skills shortage faced by the industry.

Reduces health and safety risk on site

  • Construction in a controlled factory environment also has the advantage of being more predictable and safer; reducing the health and safety risk.

With offsite providing a solution for a more efficient build, it would seem like the obvious choice for tackling the housing crisis in London; yet some developers are still wary of outsourcing and choose to continue with more traditional construction methods. Collaboration is required to help support this and better educate on benefits involved.

Ireland is committed to delivering high quality services to the UK and Irish construction companies are dedicated to working with principal contractors to deliver landmark projects throughout the UK. The promotion of offsite benefits and an education around the misconceptions of this method are key to driving change within the construction industry.

Challenges with budgets, space, skilled workers are only set to continue (and in some cases worsen) so finding timely, cost saving solutions for the construction industry are paramount to the preservation of the UK housing marketing. With the UK and Ireland collaborating their efforts, and harnessing the benefits of offsite, we can work towards ending the London housing crisis.

 

Anne Corr

Market Adviser

Enterprise Ireland

Tel: +44 (0)207 4388706

anne.corr@enterprise-ireland.com

www.irishadvantage.co.uk

Twitter: @EI_TheUK

LinkedIn: Anne Corr

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