Sarah Daly, Director of Strategic Sustainability & Partnerships explains why the new housing market needs go-offsite portal and how it will help transition the sector to quantity with quality.
go-offsite is an exciting new Sustainable Homes’ initiative that takes us deep into our purpose: for every home to encourage more sustainable lives. The idea behind go-offsite came from what seemed like endless reviews and reports lamenting the state of the housing sector; but very little in terms of pragmatic solutions. The portal includes four key elements: a guide to offsite housing, which is devised from a developer perspective; then three directories to help developers identify manufacturers, contractors and professionals to bring schemes to fruition.
Our objective is to stimulate uptake of offsite housing in order to drive quality and quantity without compromising sustainability and performance. These should not be mutually exclusive objectives in the 21st century in a leading global economy.
Sustainable Homes is working in partnership with Buildoffsite to encourage manufacturers to differentiate precision products that will perform ‘as-built’ with fewer defects and achieving higher levels of sustainability as standard. In most cases there should also be significant cost and time advantages over traditional construction. By accrediting and verifying building performance, Sustainable Homes and BOPAS are de-risking the supply chain and stimulating the housing sector to choose offsite.
By driving higher standards, Sustainable Homes wishes to play a major role in accelerating uptake and safeguarding the future of this essential element in the housing mix. Hundreds of millions are being invested in offsite capacity; but manufacturers and their supply-chains, need to create the pipelines to sustain these facilities and deliver more factories to meet local need. This will not only help to resolve the housing crisis but it will also create jobs and stimulate local economies.
go-offsite’s guide section will also raise levels of knowledge and skills in development teams to help them better understand the different offsite solutions available and to match these to proposed sites. We have worked with Professor Nicholas Whitehouse MBE, of Oxford Brookes University with contributions from others like Begum Nash, our in-house sustainability consultant, Jon Close of Keystone Law and Laura Marshall of Triptych Planning. The structured approach with practical tips and guidance, is aimed at increasing the likelihood of procuring offsite and achieving the transition called for by The Housing White Paper and The Farmer Review.
Mark Farmer, author of The Farmer Review, acknowledges that we need to go up a gear and start actively changing the way the housing marketing operates if we are to drive quantity with quality:
“If the offsite sector is to mature then there is a need for collaborative platforms such as ‘go-offsite’ to enable the industry to access specialist knowledge and prospective delivery partners.
I welcome this initiative and hope it enables the industry to harness the clear delivery and performance benefits of moving to higher levels of pre-manufacturing.”
Our ambitions go far beyond a website, however. We wish to create detailed content delivered by leading experts across all related disciplines in a programme of webinars and seminars that will ensure developers have access to up-to-the-minute advice, best practice and expertise.
The outcomes, in terms of performance from offsite prototypes and housing developments to date, have been incredibly impressive, but the feedback from the teams is always that it was a stressful learning curve as they repeatedly realised they hadn’t sequenced decisions and often had not anticipated fundamental differences between offsite and traditional schemes. We want to ensure that lessons are learned and knowledge is transferred at speed, so that all future developments can be delivered with ease.
Additionally, we wish to create client consortia, to drive capacity and achieve economies of scale to create value, rather than the current race to the bottom on specification and standards. This will require some very high level rethinking – not least in terms of early collaboration and changes in procurement and frameworks. Value will need to be judged by outputs and performance rather than lowest cost bidding.
Whilst beneficial to all housing developers, go-offsite is especially critical for social and institutional private landlords as the benefit of higher performing retained stock and the ability to take BIM designs through to asset management (BIM:SAM) will yield long-term paybacks.
go-offsite is creating awareness, opportunities and conversations; it will increase understanding and collaboration across the value chain; it will drive up standards by strongly encouraging verification and accreditation so that offsite new build homes disrupt the traditional sector and force it to deliver better performance. It will stimulate strategic discussions with local authorities and consortia that will be able to procure volumes of homes creating local jobs and homes that will meet 2050 standards.
We invite all manufacturers, contractors and professionals to contact us now to get listed firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0208 973 0429
(Click to enlarge and view and sample of the directory)
go-offsite at The Offsite Construction Show, ExCel, London on 12th October. Register for our workshop where you can hear about the portal and have a play. From the launch date, developers can subscribe to the site to explore, learn and connect to this exciting new phase for UK offsite housing.