Barratt Developments, Britain's biggest house-builder, yesterday reported that 20% of its new homes are built using some form of offsite prefabrication or so called 'modern' methods of construction (MMC). It is aiming to increase this to 25% by 2025.
Claimed advantages are speed of construction and enhanced quality control.
Redrow, however, which styles itself as “the UK's leading premium homebuilder”, sees things differently.
“Redrow's aim is to build houses and apartments that our customers are proud to call their homes,” said chief operating officer Matthew Pratt. “Our product is hand built by skilled craftsmen in all weather and consists of many components that require a large number of different trades to install.”
It addresses quality control not by building in factories but by tightening site management and exploiting modern technology.
Redrow has launched an iPad-based quality control system that site teams use “to ensure our hand built product is thoroughly checked and logged for quality”.
Mr Pratt explained: “The system allows our site managers to identify faults in the home, record these with marked up photographs showing what corrective works are required. Every subcontractor has access to our portal that provides a detailed list, with photographs of any works requiring rectification. Once remedial works have been completed the subcontractor can close down the instruction by returning a photo of the remediated works. The data from this system will allow us to review common faults and improve our training and specification to prevent repeating faults.
“Ultimately the introduction of this system will allow us to identify faults and ensure they are correctly and quickly remediated. The new system will enable us to engage better with our subcontractors leading to improved quality and reductions in cost through shared best practice. The recording of the home at various stages of build also allows us to demonstrate to our customers the inspections we have undertaken and the inner-workings of their new home.”
Offsite construction is used occasionally, he said, but not as company policy. Other efficiency improvements appear to be a greater priority.
He added: “The business continues to focus on tight build control and reducing costs. Whilst maintaining quality is key to this success, focusing on a number of small initiatives rather than wholesale changes can cumulatively have a significant effect. The business is currently highlighting reducing build times to save costs in overall prelims as well as improving build quality to reduce defects and waste.
“Reducing build times is not about expecting trades to build faster; it is about reducing the gaps or standing time when plots are not being work on. By focusing on eliminating the standing time the overall build time reduces.
“Whilst we do use modern methods of construction (MMC) across the group, such as timber frame and steel frame, this is more specific to the site and the product we are building. As referred to above, we are looking at various smaller areas of efficiency rather than wholesale changes and a move to MMC. Although we pride ourselves on our traditional homes being built by skilled craftsmen, wherever possible we look to use offsite manufactured components: for example, large off site manufactured arches for houses or the service pods for our multi-storey developments.”