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House-building – how the cracks are beginning to show

UK housing is under serious pressure, with a lack of skilled labour, materials and innovation contributing to an already difficult market. So what’s the answer?

The cost of buying a home is a big issue, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Looking at the bigger picture, the population is growing, we’re living longer and we’re living differently – putting extraordinary pressure on our housing stock..

In response, the government is working hard to encourage large-scale house building across the length and breadth of the UK, with a target of 250,000 new homes every year to meet our needs. But, while they build up the pressure, the cracks are starting to show…

Skilled labour

The most concerning fracture is the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry. Some left and went to other sectors during the last recession. Some retired, taking their skills with them. Others – 200,000 EU migrant employees, to be precise – face an uncertain future following the Brexit fallout. The government is urging school-leavers to join the sector, incentivising firms to take on apprentices and to train up a whole new generation, but it’s not happening fast enough.

The skills gap has led to problems in getting the job done – on time and to a good standard. In a report by Scape Group, 58% of contractors and suppliers said they’ve encountered problems with quality; while nearly 40% have seen projects go over-budget.

Industry voices are calling out for support. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) reports that its members are struggling to access the skills they need – a point echoed by a recent statement by the Home Builders’ Federation (HBF), which cited recruiting and training people as the biggest single issue the sector faces.

Material shortages

Material stocks are also straining, with demand very rapidly outstripping supply. In some parts of the country, developers are reporting a shortage of bricks and delays of months for simple supplies. This is causing projects to slow even further, despite an already lengthy lead time in comparison to some of our European neighbours.

Offsite magazine quoted six-month lead times for projects in Germany, which would take two to three years here – so we need to speed up. But what is the solution? If we don’t have the skills, the materials, or the time to construct as we always have, then surely a rethink is needed.

The solution

At mi-pad® we believe that we’ve developed a compelling answer to many of the issues – the home of the future, and at the very least a complementary solution that would alleviate the pressure for our housing market.

mi-pad® is manufactured offsite and needs only semi-skilled labour to put together. It’s delivered across a few parts and can literally be screwed into the ground and constructed in a day. It’s even suitable for sites that may flood or suffer earthquakes. And that’s only the start.


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