Actis welcomes Farmer Review’s call for innovation to tackle housing crisis

A call to embrace innovation to tackle the growing construction skills shortage, standardise quality and ensure the UK reaches its new build housing targets has been applauded by off site construction champion Actis insulation.

The government commissioned Farmer Review of the Construction Labour Model, which calls on the sector to ‘modernise or die’, presents a radical ten point plan to address what will otherwise see the industry’s ‘inexorable decline.’

Author Mark Farmer’s findings come as no surprise to many, including Actis UK and Ireland director Matthew King, who says increasing the number of timber framed houses is a no-brainer to address both falling numbers of skilled workers and speed up the build process at a time when the country is in dire need of more homes.

The review highlights the construction industry’s dysfunctional training model, its lack of innovation and collaboration and non-existent research and development culture.

With more people leaving the industry each year than joining, the construction workforce is shrinking, placing increasingly severe constraints on its capacity to build housing and infrastructure. Reliance on a fractured supply chain and self-employment also means there is little incentive for contractors to invest in long term training for the labour force.

Commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Mark Farmer has made 10 recommendations, one of which encourages large scale use of off site construction – which is both less labour intensive and enables quality to be more easily regulated.

He says construction should be more like a car factory production line, with every section deliverable to a pre-determined quality standard.

Matthew King agrees that this approach is perhaps the only way to ensure increased house building delivery.

“Creating a timber frame home is around 30% faster than building in brick and block. The bulk of the skilled element takes place off site. Timber frame walls, floors and roofs, complete with electrical wiring, plumbing and insulation are built in factories at relative speed. Indeed some insulation systems such as Actis Hybrid, which consists of insulation, vapour control layer and breather membrane, can be installed effectively with ease by someone who has had minimal training which can even be delivered via an on line tutorial.

“As these three in one systems are quicker to install than traditional insulation – many builders report savings of 25 to 50% – this in turn also frees up more man hours.”