Industry experts join housing minister to promote offsite manufacturing

Members of Offsite Solutions Scotland meeting with minister for local government and housing Kevin Stewart MSP

A group of senior construction industry specialists met with housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP last week to discuss how they can work with the Scottish Government to grow the unique offsite manufacturing design and skill base in Scotland.

Offsite Solutions Scotland (OSS) is a coalition of ten construction manufacturers with an ambition to grow scale through collaboration.

OSS chairman Calum Murray, a director of CCG (Scotland) Ltd, said: “We were delighted that the minister was able to join us and give us his support as we work together to position Scotland as the centre of excellence for offsite manufacturing. The Scottish Government has an incredibly ambitious target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021 and it is predicted that 295,000 houses per year until 2037 require to be built in the UK.

“To achieve that, it is necessary to significantly increase the average annual output of affordable homes and the only way that is going to be achieved is by embracing and making full use of offsite manufacturing techniques.

“Offsite manufacturing offers so many advantages – most notably the fact that homes can be built faster and to higher sustainability standard when compared with traditional construction methods, making them more cost effective to build and construct, as well as live in.

“The fabric first approach of OSS responds to this with higher levels of insulation reducing energy use through conservation and factory precision reducing waste materials by up to 40%.

“Building offsite saves time and money, and it also ensures a high quality finished product and Scotland is very well placed to take advantage of this market. In addition, OSS can embrace change and the emergence of digitisation, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, with computer aided design and computer aided manufacture utilised as standard in their businesses.”

OSS has a combined manufacturing output of £170 million employing more than 1,000 people. Partners used the meeting to highlight their focus on the pre-manufacture of the components required to build sustainable housing solutions from a truly renewable carbon capturing resource, wood.

OSS sees the many advantages of using offsite methods of construction over traditional housebuilding techniques and considerable opportunity to utilise the expertise Scotland has developed both at home and across the rest of the UK.

Conducting activities under a factory roof, offsite construction offers a clean working environment with a focus on improving productivity, enhancing quality and facilitating diversification in the workforce. This is considered necessary to tackle head on the skills and productivity challenges of our time and the systemic housing shortage.

These houses all need to meet future regulatory requirements given the challenge of fuel poverty and the environment impact buildings have accounting for about half of all our extracted materials and energy consumption.

OSS is a unique partnership formed to enable the industry to collaborate on technical projects, skills development and innovation around offsite manufacturing. The ten organisations collaborating have a track record in their own right, they have invested in people and facilities over the years, some over decades, to have a combined knowledge base which is an invaluable asset to Scotland.

Combining their collective knowledge and infrastructure with a culture of collaboration, not normal in the construction sector, offers a new approach to the delivery of the built environment defined by its social, economic and environmental value.

In addition to CCG (Scotland) Ltd, members include Alexander Timber Design, Carbon Dynamic, Mactaggart & Mickel, Makar, Norscot, Oregon Timber Systems, Robertson, Scotframe and Stewart Milne Timber Systems. The partnership is supported by Edinburgh Napier University, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre and Scottish Enterprise.

Calum added: “The Scottish Government’s housebuilding target is being made more challenging by overall low productivity in the construction sector, as well as a skills and materials shortfall which is only going to be exacerbated by Brexit.

“Offsite construction is growing and we are well placed to take our expertise to the rest of the UK and beyond. In partnership with the Scottish Government we are ambitious and confident that together we can cement our position as a centre of excellence.”

In the UK and overseas, offsite manufacturing is growing rapidly - the industry is worth around £1.5 billion in the UK alone and is projected to rise to £6bn by 2025.

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