Appropriately enough for Housing Day 2018, calls for more Government investment to end the housing crisis, to boost opportunities for SME housebuilders and developers and to build genuinely affordable quality homes, were some of the strong messages coming from day two of UK Construction Week (UKCW).
In a series of debates with key industry speakers, discussion around the UK’s current housing crisis drew in the crowds.
Hosted by BBC reporter and presenter Steph McGovern, a panel of experts delved further into issues such as the availability of land, the powers to enable local authorities’ own building programmes and opportunities for smaller building firms.
Ruth Davison, executive director of public impact at National Housing Federation, said:
“To solve the housing crisis, 50% of land must be allocated to building affordable homes. Research shows that the UK needs 340,000 homes a year and that 90,000 of these homes need to be genuinely affordable.”
Alex Ely, principal at Mae Architects, pointed out that the last time housing supply met demand was in the 1960s, when half of all housing was social.
At this time, land was more readily available. But Bjorn Conway, chief executive officer at Ilke Homes felt this isn’t the main issue today:
“There are lots of small plots available but they’re not being built on because it’s not economic for large developers. I can see really good volume and development opportunities for SME housebuilders and developers.”
Leading the discussion on to how new housing can be delivered, Steph McGovern talked about construction companies needing to evolve into technology companies: “Start with the business processes that will drive productivity and focus on technology that will improve them.”
Bjorn Conway supported this statement, adding:
“Using technology and modern methods of construction will ensure we can build quicker without compromising on quality and design. It will add capacity to the construction industry while building high-quality homes.”
Quality was also the focus of a packed-out seminar on construction standards post-Grenfell. As one of the speakers, building regulations expert Geoff Wilkinson commented:
“We need to build to the standards we say we will. We need everyone to stand up for quality, to say we’re not going to be part of a culture where everyone designs down to a minimum or looks on regulatory compliance as an optional extra. We should ensure that you can’t start work on housing or any other project until it’s had independent approval, you can’t vary the design or specification until it’s been checked, and you can’t occupy a building until it’s been proved you have built what you said you would.”
Other highlights from the show included:
- Barbara Res’ keynote talk on the challenges she faced as a woman working in a male-dominated environment, building Trump Tower, and her experience of working with Donald Trump;
- The announcement of the UKCW Role Model of the Year, engineering project manager Arleta Anderasik-Paton;
- The Voltimum Smart Solutions Awards; and
- The FIS’s Builders Brew event in support of World Mental Health Day.
Grand Designs Live also opened its doors today, and over the course of the weekend will provide thousands of visitors with expert advice on self-build, home renovations and improvements, new product launches and specialist exhibitors in six project zones. UKCW visitors get free access to this show tomorrow, but new tickets are required from Friday 12 October.
Nathan Garnett, UKCW event director, said:
“Day two of UK Construction Week has been incredibly busy and has dealt with some of the biggest issues of the day, from the housing crisis and quality in construction, to diversity, skills, economic forecasts and the new business models that will transform the industry in the future.
“Our theme is the future of construction and we have seen this reflected yet again, in the people, policies, processes, products and projects which have been on display today.
“Tomorrow is the final day of this year’s show, so don’t miss out. It’s the one opportunity in the year to see everything new and everyone important all under one roof.”
Tomorrow’s top sessions at UKCW are expected to be:
- A look at the impact and consequences of Brexit on procurement in the UK, chaired by architect and TV presenter George Clarke;
- The completed build of Carwyn Lloyd Jones’ ‘Tiny House of the Future’, created entirely from natural materials such as timber, cob and hempcrete; and
- The first BMF Young Merchants’ Conference with keynote speaker Steve Backley OBE, British track and field athlete;
- A preview of an extraordinary construction mission to Antarctica to build a new wharf for the RRS Sir David Attenborough, aka ‘Boaty McBoatface’.
More than 650 exhibitors and 10,000 products and services are featured across nine shows: Build Show, Energy 2018, Timber Expo, Building Tech Live, Surface & Materials Show, HVAC 2018, Civils Expo, Plant and Machinery Live, and Grand Designs Live.