Greater use of offside construction and the consideration of whole-life costs are also recommended in the report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.
The report, Increasing offsite housing construction in Scotland: An evidence base to support new policy and systems, considered changes to the way homes are developed and constructed. New homes can be built more efficiently if all those involved - councils and housing associations, designers, planners, regulators and builders - sit down together at the beginning of every project, it says.
The research was undertaken by Edinburgh Napier University and Glasgow School of Art and analysis of global evidence relating to offsite housing manufacturing as well as a series of workshops with practitioners to consider changes to the way homes are developed and constructed. The focus of the research was affordable housing but the findings are seen as of relevance to the wider housebuilding industry.
The report recommends greater use of offsite construction as helping to reduce cost, speed up delivery, improve quality and environmental impact and reduce health and safety risks.
However, the report says that these benefits will only be fully realised if the way that homes are developed and built moves to a ‘design for manufacture’ approach.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Most new homes in Scotland are already built using offsite timber frame systems but we are exploring whether we can improve the system by changing the way we and our partners do things.
“We will consider the report’s findings and listen to our stakeholders to help us move to a more efficient, productive system which will also contribute to our ambitious sustainability goals.”
As well as working collaboratively, the report recommends wide adoption of ‘whole life costs’ as a way of evaluating projects to allow the value of the home over its lifetime to be assessed, including future maintenance and energy costs.
A spokesperson for Scottish Enterprise said: “The construction industry is reported to be one of the least productive sectors in the UK economy and this report sheds light on how this can be tackled. This most recent piece of work suggests that Scottish manufacturers want to become more efficient and that they will invest in more productive systems provided that there is a pipeline of future demand. We look forward to working with partners to explore this further.”
Andrew Nurse from Construction Scotland Innovation Centre said: “This report is rich in expert advice and will give the Scottish Government and its partners the evidence upon which to help shape future policy. We enjoy a strong offsite housing manufacturing sector in Scotland and this report points to significant opportunities to build on that success. This is a major focus of our work at the Innovation Centre.”