Writing for PBC Today Buildoffsite argues that, to fix our broken housing market, we need to challenge our use of traditional construction methods and materials. Buildoffsite say “The only viable way to get substantially increased capacity out of a supply chain that is under real strain is to challenge traditional methods of construction and also challenge the use of traditional materials.”

A recent interview with architect George Clarke on BBC Breakfast News saw him promoting modular housing, as he launched MOBI (Ministry of Building Innovation). MOBI brings together innovative construction techniques with skills training. It’s aim being to push for innovation in the homebuilding industry, delivering Masters and B-TEC courses in MMC. CITB have published their report Faster, Smarter, More Efficient: Building Skills for Offsite Construction, which highlights that offsite construction can increase productivity, reduce timescales and lower build costs compared with traditional construction. The greatest potential for growth in offsite is in the housing and commercial sectors. And our recent research into UK Offsite Manufacture shows that we are on the cusp of a significant increase in the use of offsite with the potential for the share of the market using these systems to quadruple in the next few years.

The think tank Civitas, also in response to the white paper on “Fixing our broken housing market” recommends changes in land and planning, enabling developers to sell homes cheaply and quickly, by purchasing land at lower prices. Find out more in their report Building Homes Faster. The House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee published its 10th report of the session: Capacity in the Homebuilding Industry. It identified the over-reliance on a few large developers as an issue and suggested greater support for Modern Methods of Construction and the wider supply chain. It also calls on greater education routes into the construction industry.

A recent article by RICS reminds us of the pressure on construction due to labour shortages. Meanwhile the promise of temporary visas spanning three years after Brexit could help plug the UK construction skills gap, according to a new report from Migrant Watch UK.

The drive to increase output in housing is starting to be seen. The latest statistics from The NHBC shows a strong start to 2017 for new home registrations as more than 42,000 new homes were registered in the first 3 months of 2017, which is an increase of 17% on the 36,351 registered 12 months ago, making this the highest quarter in 10 years. So output for the housing sector is going in the right direction. Yet according to the Bank of England, in March, the number of mortgages approved for house purchase decreased 4.7% on an annual basis and 1.6% on a monthly basis to reach 66,837, the lowest number reported since September 2016.

Maybe many are choosing to improve rather than move? Barbour ABI have published a report, called Home Improvers of Great Britain 2017, looking at trends in planning activity and whether households are looking at moving housing or improving existing properties. This reports a 6% rise in home improvement work that requires planning permission in 2016 compared to 2015.

So with increased housebuilding why are we not seeing increased mortgage approval? Is innovation in design also needed, not just innovation in supply? For example developer Berkeley has revealed a new target to become carbon positive. Their ‘One Vision’ plan includes smart home technology, putting some 1,500 people into apprenticeship, and a commitment to improve biodiversity on sites.  Hubert Da Costa Vice President of EMEA at Cradlepoint, writes for PBC Today about the value of making affordable housing smarter and the technology enabling this in areas such as security lighting and smart appliances. Our recent research, New Technology and Innovation in Construction, provides indicators on attitude and take-up by the Construction Decision Making Unit in the areas of: Offsite, Product Identification and Reporting, Sustainability, Automatic Product Design and Installation, Remote Monitoring and Augmented Reality.

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