3rd March Journal Column

 By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

The National House Building Council (NHBC) has launched a website to help house-builders keep track of their ongoing projects being built off-site.

Offsite construction is a modern way of building that sees the unit being constructed offsite in a factory-controlled environment. The building is then delivered to the site where the ground works and foundations will have been prepared.

The modern methods of construction (MMC) Hub also lists building systems that NHBC has accepted as meeting the NHBC Standards. Only builders and developers who can demonstrate financial security and technical competence are registered with NHBC. It allows manufacturers to submit their systems and sub-assemblies for an assessment to determine whether they satisfy the requirements of NHBC Technical Standards. Because NHBC’s approach to acceptance of MMC/off-site construction is rigorous, it means that if a home benefits from an NHBC warranty then you can be confident that the system has been thoroughly assessed.

Although it is becoming more popular, off-site construction is still a fairly new method, so it’s beneficial that builders can have their systems and sub-assemblies checked before the process begins. The site also provides free access to research into off-site construction and gives users the option to ask frequently asked questions. It’s important organisations and builders are educated when it comes to off-site construction because it has the potential to help the industry in many ways.

Off-site construction has many benefits compared to traditional build; it is safer, more efficient and has the potential to greatly minimise on-site waste. This method also makes it possible to optimise construction material purchases and usage. With many off-site projects all happening under the same roof, it also means it’s easier to take inventory of leftover materials and use them on other projects, as opposed to other methods where surplus would be dumped in the recycle bin.

If used in the delivery of affordable housing, off-site construction has the potential to transform the way housing is delivered, and play a key role in ensuring we meet the government’s 2020 housing target, helping us deliver the affordable housing we so desperately need.

Working in a controlled factory environment means there is also less exposure to risks and less time spent on the construction site, resulting in much improved safety. With time and safety being reduced, it puts less pressure on contractors meaning they aren’t reliant on temporary labour. So really, it’s a win, win situation all round!

Work is well underway at Smiths Dock, North Shields to install 34 modular homes. The houses are being built in a factory in Nottinghamshire before being transported to North Shields and installed on site. It’s really promising to see that the North East has already accepted off-site construction and started using the method to its advantage. It shows that we have acknowledge that, like many industries, we are changing and we are ok with that. New construction methods are here to stay, and if they’re going to help us reach targets and deliver the houses we need, why wouldn’t we get on board?