The government has stated that the UK needs an additional 120,000 homes each year to address the housing shortage. That’s a challenge that the housebuilding sector simply can’t meet using traditional construction methods alone.
There are too many hurdles to overcome for that to be a realistic option - skills shortages, an aging workforce, poor productivity, low output and a materials shortfall, to name but a few.
A high standard must also be maintained for house building. Homes need to be affordable, energy efficient, and of a high quality, leading to increased customer satisfaction and improved building performance.
Industrialisation through digital working, offsite construction and lean site assembly processes can be part of the solution, but they have not yet broken through as viable mainstream alternatives to traditional methods of building homes. The AIMCH (Advanced Industrialised Methods for the Construction of Homes) project aims to change this.
AIMCH, which received £4m of funding from Innovate UK under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, aims to develop industrialised near-to-market panelised offsite solutions.
The ultimate goal of AIMCH is to deliver homes which are built 30 per cent more quickly and with a 50 per cent reduction in defects, yet cost the same or less to construct than traditionally built homes.
The project has the potential to impact on 35,000 homes being delivered by AIMCH partners across the UK each year.The project will develop digitally integrated solutions around design standardisation, Design for Manufacture and Assembly and Building Information Modelling, linked to advanced manufacturing, supply chain integration, enhanced offsite panelised systems and lean construction practices. The project will gather hard evidence and data from live sites to inform decision making and business case for change and investment.
We are confident AIMCH will be a major change catalyst in the housing sector by identifying and developing industrialised near-to-market panelised offsite solutions needed to meet current and future housebuilding demands. These will be benchmarked to current methods and solutions trialled on live housing projects, with successful new methods then being commercialised and brought to market in volume. We expect that the project will result in new digital design tools, manufacturing advancements, improved near-to-market offsite systems and lean site processes.
By leading to high quality homes that can be built quickly and viably, we believe AIMCH will be the catalyst the housing sector needs to move towards advanced digitally integrated manufacturing and site assembly, whilst overcoming the challenges that the sector faces today and helping it get to where it needs to go in the future.
This collaborative innovation project involves a mix of housing providers and tenures, high-profile and entrepreneurial companies, differing offsite construction systems, and is backed by leading researchers. The consortium is Stewart Milne Group, Barratt Developments PLC, L&Q, Tarmac, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Forster Roofing Services Ltd. The project will be managed by Limberger Associates.
The project partners are all really excited about the possibilities of AIMCH and are confident it will be a game-changer for the housing sector. It brings CSIC and the MTC’s innovation and industrialisation expertise and capability in key technologies such as design and simulation, and process and manufacturing systems development, including automation and visualisation, together with high profile housing and offsite manufacturing providers, who provide scale, innovation capability and a clear route to market.
At Stewart Milne Group, we’ve always sought to innovate through digital working, advanced manufacturing and offsite construction. As well as developing around 1,000 homes a year, we also manufacture 8,500 offsite timber frame homes for third party clients, with aspirations to double this in the future.
As the UK’s largest housebuilder, the project’s private housing partner Barratt Developments PLC sold 17,579 homes in the year to June 2018. Barratt is forging ahead with its adoption of modern methods of construction and offsite production, trialling new technologies and strengthening supply chain relationships.
The project’s social housing partner, L&Q, is one of the UK’s most successful social businesses, housing around 250,000 people in 92,000 homes, primarily across London and the South East. It aims to build 100,000 new homes over ten years, with at least 50 per cent of these genuinely affordable, with 100 per cent commitment to modern methods of construction.
Tarmac is developing concrete offsite housing solutions, including piloting the manufacture of offsite concrete garages. This work provides the basis for AIMCH to trial the viability of a possible mainstream housing solution.
Similarly, SME roofing contractor Forster Group wishes to develop and commercialise a novel kit of parts roof tiling system including integrated PV, which fits perfectly with AIMCH’s aims.
AIMCH also has the support of Homes England, and is a named project within the Farmer Review, as an example of the type of game changing industry project needed within the housing sector.
What’s more, as well as providing much needed homes, AIMCH also has the potential to deliver wider sector benefits in terms of jobs, investment and growth.