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Research Review

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Building sustainable homes at speed: risks and rewards (NF48)

Overview

It is perhaps an irony that the title of this report refers to building homes at speed when our current annual housing output is at one of the lowest levels in recorded history.

However, the growing need for more homes to be built, along with new construction techniques have presented the house-building industry with the opportunity to combine the benefits of building quickly and building sustainably to meet the requirements of the higher Levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes.  House builders considering using innovative systems are faced with difficult judgements about whether these approaches can fulfil their objectives and produce durable, healthy, low-maintenance housing.

This research review gives a series of case studies of selected sustainable housing developments which had the potential to achieve significant gains in construction speed by using innovative approaches.  It summarises the risks that house builders, registered providers, manufacturers and design teams should be aware of when considering how to build sustainable homes quickly, highlights the risks that are of most concern and suggests how the most significant risks can be avoided or mitigated.

Summary of content

New rapid construction techniques have presented the house-building industry with the opportunity to combine the benefits of building quickly and sustainably, meeting the requirements of the higher Levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes while delivering a consistent level of performance.

House builders considering using such systems are faced with difficult judgements about whether innovative systems can deliver their objectives.  Shorter construction programmes may often be an explicit aim of both registered providers (RPs) and private house builders, looking for a rapid return on investment, or faced with developing a constrained or sensitive site where a prolonged construction stage may be problematic.

In many cases, rapid construction is not a primary driver for a project, but is nevertheless a welcome consequence of using modern methods of construction (MMC) systems which have been chosen for other reasons, such as specific environmental benefits.