Yes - He’s ‘On the Telly’
With almost 200 people crowding into an event to hear the forthright views of TV presenter, George Clarke on housebuilding, In these extracts from his article, Max Halliwell looks at why questioning the mindset of the construction industry has attracted such interest.
Transform the Way we Build
A group of specifiers, architects, Housing Associations, housebuilders and heating engineers packed into a crowded conference centre at Mitsubishi Electric’s Hatfield headquarters last week to hear a passionate presentation from architect and TV presenter, George Clarke where he called on the housing sector to radically transform the way we build homes.
Use Factory-Built Technology
In an entertaining and engaging presentation lasting almost an hour, George Clarke spoke earnestly about the need to change the mindset of the whole construction industry to reject the traditional way of building homes as there are now much better and quicker ways using factory-built, modular technology.
“You wouldn’t build a car out in the backyard, you’d build it in a factory and then you can ensure precision engineering in a way that is simply not possible outdoors,” he explained .“Why can’t the same be true of building houses, where we can ensure the highest quality of materials and construction and then ship individual modules to site? “This removes the timely wet processes such as bricklaying and plastering and means homes can be put together in days, rather than months.”
Greater Alignment Needed
The event was hosted by Mitsubishi Electric and in addition to George Clarke, Professor Nick Whitehouse spoke on behalf of the sectorial interest group “buildoffsite” and called for much more alignment on the key issues facing construction and housebuilding
State of the market
Mitsubishi Electric’s own experts examined the state of the renewable heating market and pointed to the significant growth opportunities presented by the government’s recognition of heat pumps as a major part of the move towards a much more sustainable and energy efficient housing sector. Martin Fahey, Head of Sustainable for the company, highlighted how they are heading for an electric economy and demonstrated why the days of simply ‘burning stuff’ are rapidly coming to an end.
“75% of emissions reductions since 2012 have come from the power sector as we green the grid and this makes the case for electric forms of heating, such as heat pumps, much, much stronger,” he explained.
However, this progress in reducing emissions from power generation masks the failure in other sectors such as construction, transport and industry and Fahey was keen to highlight the important role that buildings both old and new have to play in lowering carbon emissions.
Ready to deliver
National Specification Manager, Stuart Bell talked about how everything is now in place to quickly deliver renewable heat to homes using air source heat pumps. Stuart questioned attendees on their reasons for attending the event and was delighted that almost no one in the room needing convincing of the case for heat pumps. He congratulated everyone for being the pioneers who are leading the way towards a more sustainable future.
Stuart also highlighted the huge number of case studies on heat pump installations around the country, in a wide variety of situations from tower blocks, restored Victorian brick-buildings, single apartments and individual houses of almost every type.
“One of these I saw last year involved an inspiring ex-WWII pilot, now in his 90’s, who has added an air source heat pump to his home, which is already kitted out with PV panels and a well to supply a water heat source,” he explained, “there are a growing number of people like this who completely understand the benefits of switching now to renewables to benefit their homes, their energy bills and the wider environment.”
Building off site
Speaking on behalf of Build Offsite, whose objective is to bring together the disparate parts of the industry and demonstrate thought-leadership to the housing sector, Nick Whitehouse said:
“Our industry is a bit of a shocker for not bringing everyone together but we need real alignment on the key issue facing construction and housebuilding.
33% Lower Costs, 50% faster, Half CO2
“There are a number of factors stopping modular really taking off and one of the major blockages are the mortgage providers” he added before highlighting how modular building can lower costs by 33%, increase delivery speeds by 50% and halve carbon emissions.
“We need to radically shift the mindset and see this as enabling production of quality, precision modular housing components rather than approach it with a traditional ‘construction’ frame of mind,” he added.
It’s time to start now
George Clarke called for the industry to stop thinking short-term, with our homes and the environment needing a long-term, clean and green investment strategy.
“We know the pressure is on the construction companies to build more energy efficient homes but they are not doing enough and not quickly enough,” he said, explaining that in essence, we are broadly building homes in similar ways to the Romans.
“In addition to this, modern life has moved on and it is now no longer enough to simply aim for energy efficient houses as we need to consider the well-being of the occupants much more than ever before and design and build ‘healthy’ homes that are also as carbon neutral as possible.”
“Sunlight” – Renewed Everyday
Explaining how modern methods of construction and renewable technologies such as air source heat pumps mean we can deliver these healthy and energy efficient homes, George also highlighted how more power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, and that this is renewed every single day.
“It has taken us a long time to change our mindset with regards to cars, fossil fuels and emissions and we are getting there but we all still see dirty, polluting cars on our roads everyday,” he explained. “When it comes to our homes, we have hardly started and we need to now!”
Long term thinking
Communications Manager for Renewable Heating, Max Halliwell, who kicked off the day to the packed room spoke about how we are fast becoming prosumers, rather than consumers, in that there is now so much information available that we are now all able to be ‘professional consumers’.
This is changing the way people look at major purchases such as homes and we are seeing more people ask for evidence of the sustainability and long term thinking that has gone into their home.
Max Halliwell is Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Electric's Heating & Ventilation Systems
Your ‘Sustainable Modular’ Partners
We’ve spent years getting good at what we do. creating sustainable, energy efficient timber structures to satisfy all types of design, so that we can help you, your buyers or tenants. Whether you want ‘volumetric’ or ‘flat pack’ modular building solutions we adapt our business innovations and developments to your projects This really means engaging with your whole team to deliver on time and within budget. It requires a systematic, solution driven approach which brings discipline to the process, sharing information and communications. Applying DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) defines the process of taking these to the next level; a welcome change in the overall approach to project management and development – and to those who just ‘talk about it’!
Partnering for Modular Progress
All of this entails a shift in thinking to that already practiced by established ‘Off-Site’ MMC manufacturers. It can be quickly and easily incorporated into procedures and processes of building and development. Better still, you can make partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all round benefits.
Greater Speed, Accuracy, Quality and Lower Costs
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers will deliver these. The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something we have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results. This virtually provides any housebuilder or architect with their own bespoke design factory facility.