At the end of September, one of my fellow directors spoke alongside Scotland’s Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP at the Confederation of Forest industries (CONFOR) in Edinburgh.
What he highlighted at the conference was how positive the future looks for the UK house building industry. The Scottish Government has committed to building 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, representing a 67 per cent increase in affordable housing supply. The Scottish Government also earlier this month announced a Rental Income Guarantee Scheme (RIGS), to boost new investment in private rented housing with the potential to attract £0.5 billion of investment and support delivery of around 2,500 new, high quality private rented homes.
At the event, we were particularly pleased to hear the Minister talk about creating an inclusive housing system that fairly balances economic, social and environmental wellbeing to deliver good quality housing, development and investment that will support communities across Scotland to thrive. This is all welcome news, and it is clear that there is plenty of work to be done to ensure we achieve it.
In order to meet the growing need for affordable housing across the UK, we at the CCG Group believe it is vital that the industry stays ahead of the curve when it comes to building and construction. Off-site Modern Methods of Construction gives us the mechanisms to allow us to do this, challenging traditional convention.
We foresaw the need to change our approach to construction, embracing off-site manufacturing as a means of taking our company to the next level. What did we see? Well, the first was the demand. In the UK and overseas, off-site manufacturing is growing rapidly and the industry is worth around £1.5 billion in the UK alone – a figure which is projected to rise to £6 billion by 2025. The second was the change to building standards with a requirement to build to a far more environmentally efficient standard.
In 2010, through private investment, we developed and opened our own Off-Site Manufacturing facility, CCG OSM – a bespoke 130,000 sq. ft. £12 million centre of excellence where we design and manufacture the iQ closed panel timber system across a 3-lane, semi-automated production line. With over 60 staff, CCG OSM is now one of the UK’s leading off-site manufacturing plants that produces a product unmatched for its quality and the level of design specification on offer to our clients across the public and private sectors.
Approximately 80% of affordable houses in Scotland are now being constructed using timber frame systems and the scope and potential for growth using timber is tremendous. With the requirement to meet the growing demand for affordable homes, the advantages of using timber frame are there to be seen when considering the speed that the homes can be constructed and the long-term environmental benefits brought by enhanced thermal efficiency, a key combatant for fuel poverty. The iQ closed panel timber system has ensured many families across the breadth of Scotland have been given a home faster, to a higher quality standard and one that is much more energy efficient with examples such as the Athletes’ Village, Barmulloch, and the Anderston Regeneration projects that are testament to the success of Off-site Modern Methods of Construction.
Offsite has clear benefits however we recognised early on in our research and development process the importance of effectively co-ordinating onsite and offsite activity to maximise project benefits and efficiencies. Our aspiration is to engage as early as possible in the design process to support our clients to build the homes required.
We need to keep pushing forward as a business and it is vital that we continue to think ahead and invest in new and emerging techniques and technologies to support our customers. We have a huge interest in off-site assembly – not only to allow us to produce the volumes of houses required but also due to a major skills shortfall arising from past failures to train Scottish citizens. Brexit will accentuate this as we lose much of the migrant labour we have come to depend on so heavily in the house building industry. The research and development done by CCG OSM in the applied use of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) is an area where we see how the external pressures of the economy can be reduced by enhancing our off-site capability in the delivery of flatted developments. By introducing this structural material as a hybrid off-site solution to the common areas of flatted developments, we believe that projects can be delivered even faster than they are now with the removal of wet trades and due to the inherent environmental properties of CLT, more energy efficient. This hybrid solution will be utilised for the first time this winter on two contracts located in Glasgow with more information coming soon. This I believe is a game changer regarding the timber frame construction of flatted developments in Scotland.
A concern for the industry and the housing sector is that off-site manufacturing may be taken further afield, to countries such as China who are expressing a huge interest in the sector right now. Scotland has some outstanding companies that are leading the way for research and development into off-site construction technologies. CCG OSM recently joined Offsite Solutions Scotland, a newly formed company of off-site manufacturers and academic partners that have come together to pull our resources and knowledge and to make Scotland the choice for innovative construction solutions.
At CCG we have been using this method for over a decade, which is one of the reasons why we have been described as one of Scotland’s most innovative and dynamic construction and manufacturing organisations. Innovation is key to the future of the sector, and it is an exciting time for Scotland to be at the forefront of this industry. CCG OSM will continue to drive forward and we will always look at what we can do to provide the highest quality homes across the UK.
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