Construction News

Sun August 01 2021

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Product shortages becomes house-builders’ biggest headache

1 Jul Traditionally house-builders’ biggest problems are planning issues and skills shortages – but not this year.

Old fashioned brick and block still rule, if you can get them...
Old fashioned brick and block still rule, if you can get them...

The availability of building products and materials has become the big hurdles facing UK house-builders in 2021, according to a survey by an insurance company.

In a poll of 1 more than 1,500 people working in the housebuilding sector, 69% said that they were having problems getting the necessary materials to do their jobs.

55% said that access to skilled workers and trades was a problem.

Planning issues were a much lesser concern, although obtaining planning permission (29%) is now a bigger concern than finding suitable land (24%).

The poll, conducted by LABC Warranty in mid-June, also asked what construction methods respondents planned to use in the next 12 months.

It found that an overwhelming majority (83%) will continue to use standard brick and block construction methods, despite the growing interest in alternative methods.

Just 16% of respondents said that they intended to make use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) or volumetric ‘pods’.

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Timber frame the most popular alternative to brick and block, with 47% expecting to use it.

27% said they would use steel frame and 13% plan to use insulating concrete formwork (ICF).

The house-builders were also asked how homes were likely to be heated with the prospect of fossil fuel-based heating being banned in new homes from 2025.

Three-quarters (76%) of respondents said that air source heat pumps would be the most likely alternative heating technology used in new homes. Ground/water-source heat pumps (35%) were the next favoured option, while it was a tie (14%) between heat networks and the use of ‘green’ gases such as hydrogen or biomethane.

LABC Warranty technical director Sarah Sheppard said the poll reflected challenges arising from the pandemic and the Brexit transition period. “These factors, coupled with the extra scrutiny building products and materials manufacturers and the testing and accreditation bodies are facing, have all landed at the same time,” she said.

“With all these constraints, it’s perhaps not surprising that many house-builders feel now is not the time to move away from traditional construction methods, especially as the housing market remains heated and the pressure to build more homes is high.

“Even so, our technical services and innovation teams are handling more enquiries than ever about construction methods and materials.”

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