This has driven a significant amount of property developers to look at system build as well as off-site manufacture to eradicate the reliance on traditional trades.
The housebuilding industry is seeing an increase in off-site manufacture and standardisation which essentially means less labour is required onsite. The construction industry is also being innovative and forward thinking in terms of recycling materials by re-using aggregates, avoiding the removal of excavated material from site and the use of grey water systems that harvest rain water from the roof for sanitation and irrigation.
Without doubt, the speed of construction has improved over the last couple of decades, but traditional builds of block and brick still rely heavily on traditional trade skills and materials – and there are simply not enough of either of these to meet the need going forward.
European labour fills the gap in the construction trades. In London, it is not uncommon to see building site signs in several languages. But if the labour shortage is being managed with the help of European and African immigrant workers, the dearth of materials can present a more stubborn issue.
In addition to these practical concerns, environmental issues are changing the way we think about builds. Governments are more demanding regarding green issues and as a result want more energy efficient houses. In addition, potential buyers are increasingly looking at the energy rating when buying a house so their property is as cost effective as possible to run. While we are improving the efficiency of properties both during construction and in use, we are putting more and more demand on building infrastructure and this is why houses should be more self-sufficient.
House-building is going the same way as car manufacturing in so far as features we considered futuristic only five years ago now very quickly become standard. It wasn’t so long ago that integral bathrooms were a step forward, now a master bedroom ensuite is standard. We can see this happening in intelligent building now where central servers will control ‘mood lighting’ among many other features.
Of course, nothing new is without risk but it is part of our role, as property risk managers, to help the mortgage industry get to grips with the risks and the opportunities for lending that modern methods of construction offer. Our own events on the subject are one example of getting the developers, materials and plans in front of our lender clients.
The term traditional build is changing. Bricks and mortar will never go out of fashion but they may be less integral to house building in the future.
Steve Goodall is managing director of Legal & General Surveying Services