So long 2016 – you were certainly an interesting year. We witnessed Brexit, the Cameron and Osborne demise and the election of Trump, to name but a few highlights. What 2017 will bring is clearly anyone’s guess if last year is anything to go by, but we do have at least one certainty; the Housing White Paper is due, and it’s rumoured it will deliver a significant impact on the planning system.
The year has started in full swing with a couple of major announcements from the government detailing their approach to tackle the housing shortages facing the UK; we should see more detail on both when the Housing White Paper is eventually released. The first concerned the development of 14 new garden villages and three garden towns, with the capacity to deliver more than 48,000 homes. The second announcement revealed the Starter Homes programme will kickstart this year. Thirty partner councils were unveiled as successors of the scheme and will develop the first discounted homes to be sold exclusively to first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old. However, councils said the scheme could prove difficult for developers to achieve without compromising on quality – particularly in areas with high house prices. This is something to keep an eye on, but it could prove ‘offsite’ building methods should be adopted at a quicker pace.
This edition opens with an interview with new Buildoffsite Chair Andrew Dix discussing the housing crisis and how offsite construction methods provide a strong base to tackle the housing problem. Dix is a passionate believer that offsite and modular construction will be adopted more and more in the UK as the industry begins to recognise its simple logic.
Echoing the virtues of offsite construction, Director of Ramboll Tom Shaw writes about the Farmer Report and how modernisation could solve the housing crisis. We need to increase construction volume, and offsite construction is key in ensuring high quality and consistent finishes, minimising labour on site.
As ever, our BIM section continues to highlight the benefits that digital construction will bring to the industry, as well as detailing the challenges. Please make sure you read Paul Oakley’s contribution about the cost of COBie for the UK and get involved in the conversation.
I would also urge you to read the article from David Frise, Head of Sustainability at Building Engineering Services. In his piece he argues that the current planning system allows developers to break their promises. Furthermore, he highlights how current building regulations encourage bad technical decisions, particularly in relation to Part L. He says what is required is a new form of ‘social’ contract between the developer and the people ultimately affected by what they want to build. He certainly has a point!
I’d like to thank all our contributors for their time, effort and expertise in helping to create this edition and to wish you all a Happy New Year.