When we consider the problem of the UK housing shortage, we must also consider all the constraints traditional homebuilding methods face which limit the number of houses that can be built in any one year:
- A shortage of skilled resource;
- Availability of traditional building materials;
- A business model adopted by traditional developers which does not facilitate a building programme to meet national demand.
It is no wonder the disparity between availability and demand for housing progressively increases.
There are however alternative methods of construction which can support the closure of the gap between national demand and that which is provided by traditional construction: offsite construction techniques. Such construction techniques and systems have been widely used on the Continent, Scandinavia, Japan and other parts of the world for many years. However the UK construction industry is more conservative than most, and has been slow to recognise the benefits of offsite construction and the energy efficiency, both in terms of embodied energy and through life costing, that it delivers.
One of the obstacles to the adoption of offsite construction has been the perceived risks of construction systems which do not have the benefit of a track record. This has particularly impacted the ability for developers of offsite constructed homes to gain mortgage finance.
The Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) was developed by Lloyd’s Register and BLP in conjunction with the main lenders to address this perceived risk and to facilitate lending against new and innovative construction systems.
Whilst the home market has been slow to recognise BOPAS as the most direct route from concept to construction for offsite systems, foreign offsite manufacturers have both recognised the market opportunities in the UK for offsite construction and the most expeditious route to the UK market via BOPAS. Consequently, BOPAS assessments of offsite manufacturers are currently underway or have been completed in Sweden, Spain, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Lithuania and China.
What the Institutions have to say about BOPAS
“At Legal & General Investment Management we consider Offsite and Modern Methods Construction (MMC) sector to be an important part of the future in terms of addressing the supply shortage issues currently facing the construction industry. Key benefits include being able to deliver consistency in terms of quality and reliability in timing in a sustainable fashion – features that appeal to long-term institutional property investors.
The BOPAS scheme will be an integral part of any credible organisations offer, when producing any Offsite/MMC products. It is key in providing the surety and insurance backed guarantee a long-term property investor requires, when investing in a property that utilises modern technologies and products.”
Council of Mortgage Lenders
Lenders take into account the views of other professionals as part of their decision as to whether to lend on properties which are built with modern, innovative methods. BOPAS, which was developed with lender input, can assist lenders by providing assurance to lenders and other professionals, about non-traditionally constructed properties which lenders may be asked to lend on.
Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
‘BOPAS accreditation enables the ready identification of new methods of construction and the assurance of their structural integrity through access to the BOPAS website, thus facilitating confident advice and accurate property valuations.’
What the accredited BOPAS Manufacturers and Constructors say of the assessment process
SIG Building Systems:
‘BOPAS took us on a journey which made us analyse the business in a way we had never done before, it presented many questions, some of which we would have not thought to ask’.
‘BOPAS has created the fundamentals behind our business model, is now an integral part of our culture & defines the way we operate on a day to day basis’.
For more information on BOPAS visit the website: http://www.bopas.org .