Offsite construction and timber sees massive growth


The move to offsite construction and timber systems has grown significantly due to a shortage in skills…

Leading provider Stewart Milne Timber Systems has reported an increase in demand for its products. According to the firm enquiries have increased by 70 per cent in the year to date as contractors turn to offsite construction and timber systems.

The company, which has factories in Oxford and Aberdeen said difficulties recruiting skilled workers was one of the main reasons for the rise in demand.

The skills shortage is an endemic issue within the construction sector. Over the summer, the Federation of Master Builders polled members and found contractors were struggling to recruit carpenters, bricklayers, and other skilled roles.

Additionally, a shortage of apprentices suggests the situation will not recover in the near future and could take substantial action to fix. According to figures, it is thought around 35,000 apprentices are needed to keep up with the demand of the industry. However, only 7,000 apprentices completed training during 2013, leaving a significant gap to plug.

The knock-on effect of this is many construction firms are seeking offsite companies such as Stewart Milne Timber Systems to undertake skilled work.

Group managing director Alex Goodfellow said: “There’s huge demand for new homes and huge demand for skilled labour to build them.

“There is a serious lack of skilled tradespeople available in recent times and many clients are restricted in output or increasing costs to meet their build programmes.

“We’ve championed offsite construction as a building technique for over 20 years and our clients are seeing the real benefits to their businesses in using offsite to maintain build programmes and generate positive cash flows.

“Offsite also contributes to higher levels of quality and health and safety, with guaranteed performance built in.”

Offsite construction and manufacturing is not a new process, but it is one that has seen increasing popularity as it offers speed for projects. Firms like Stewart Milne Timber System are popular as they can produce projects such as buildings that can be erected and weather-proof within 72 hours.

Goodfellow said: “The benefits of offsite construction are significant. From a skills perspective it reduces the impact of labour shortages and enables very high-quality builds in a fraction of the time, with exceptional environmental performance built into the fabric of the building.

“This adds up to lower on-site costs and means builders can enjoy better ROI and cash flow.

“What the ongoing skills shortage does highlight is the need for constant innovation across the sector. Ultimately, we still need to be able to build, and the industry has to find a way to meet demand quickly, cost-effectively and at very high quality.”


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