Adapt and evolve to meet housebuilding demand

September 7, 2020

With UK housing availability adversely affecting millions, we must adapt and evolve quickly to meet the UK housebuilding demand. Working with Advanced Industrialised Methods for the Construction of Homes (AIMCH), helps us to deliver vital data for better decision-making, whilst supporting change and investment within the industry to streamline the construction process.

The flagship three-year AIMCH housing innovation project was established in 2019, bringing together significant players within the sector to transform how homes are built with the intention of combatting the UK housing crisis. Current government statistics project that a further 120,000 homes are needed annually, with a specific focus on affordable homes – yet traditional construction methods alone aren’t enough.

Managed by Limberger Associates, Stewart Milne Group joined AIMCH alongside Barratt Developments PLC, London Quadrant Housing Trust Ltd, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre and Forster Roofing Services Ltd.
Speed, quality and efficiency are all challenges faced by the sector. Not only are we trying to meet housing demand by producing more, and at scale, it’s also about a meaningful response to heightened demand for ecologically responsible practices – such as digital working, lean site assembly, and offsite construction.
Offsite construction is becoming more and more popular thanks to a combination of factors; from environmental considerations, to skills shortages in the industry and, of course, the heightened demand for homes. Offering a practical and efficient alternative to traditional building methods, it speeds up the construction process and lowers the project’s carbon footprint by reducing wastage. However, adaptations to on site methods cannot be ignored.

Here at Stewart Milne Timber Systems, we have trialled new smart construction methods along with Barratt Homes, at the Pewterspear site near Warrington. A commercial analysis is set to be completed with the wider AIMCH team, to help identify product development ideas that can be taken forward for our future strategy in construction.

At Pewterspear, the pre-tiled roofs of two plots were assembled at ground level on site, in a bid to increase health and safety by eliminating the need to work from height. Research such as this will be trialled on live housing projects throughout the next three years, with the aim being to commercialise successful new methods, bringing them to market in volume.

Not only does the AIMCH work deliver a new, more effective way for businesses of all sizes to use data insights to demonstrate the value of MMC, it also allows us to respond consistently to future demands. The £6.5 million research and development project has the potential to impact on up to 35,000 of the homes to be delivered by project partners across the UK annually. Its recent construction productivity report has the potential to deliver tangible benefits now to the wider construction industry and other sectors such as transport and infrastructure.

Stewart Milne Timber Systems already manufactures high-quality timber frames which are ready made, to be transported on-site and erected, but our collaboration within industry through projects like AIMCH will be critical in bridging the housing gap. It is expected the project will deliver new valuable digital design tools, manufacturing advancements and leading offsite systems which can be adopted by others within the housing sector to improve and increase housebuilding efficiency and quality.

The project provides a promising foundation to addressing challenges faced by the sector. Only through continued innovation such as AIMCH and government funding into housing via schemes such as the Home Building Fund, will we be able to create and sustain a long-term solution to meet housebuilding demands.