A 20 point plan, drawn up last week by the Royal Institute of British Architects to address the housing crisis, has been welcomed by innovative pan European insulation company Actis.
The plan echoes some of the suggestions already put forward by Actis – including placing a greater focus on quick to build yet high quality and thermally efficient homes – and adds some transformative, multi-agency ideas which involve sensible long term planning on a national and local level.
RIBA’s plan calls for a new way of thinking about how to cope with growing household numbers in an economically difficult climate, with a focus on sustainability, community cohesion, aesthetic appeal, a transformation of regional planning powers and more emphasis on providing affordable homes.
It also suggests removing stamp duty for those downsizing and a new planning category for housing for older people, to free up larger homes and address changing demographics.
Actis UK and Ireland director Matthew King is particularly enthusiastic about RIBA’s call to ensure that an increase in build volume would not mean a decrease in quality. Earlier this year, Mr King had proposed that the building industry address both the housing crisis and the construction skills shortage by focusing more on offsite construction.
“Not only is off site construction quicker than traditional brick and block, it also requires fewer skilled man hours. By placing a greater focus on this way of building we can create more homes in the same period of time while ensuring excellent build quality and thermal efficiency,” he explained.
“Timber frame walls, floors and roofs, complete with electrical wiring, plumbing and insulation are built in factories at relative speed. The site crew just has to erect everything in the right order with a typical build time of between seven and 12 days, depending on the size of house. The bricklayers only arrive after the house is erected, which means the on site element requires fewer skilled workers and takes less time – thus maximising the man hours available.
“As for insulation, with closed panel systems this will have been installed off site. Indeed, the Actis Hybrid system, consisting of insulation, vapour control layer and breather membrane, can be installed effectively with ease by someone who has had minimal training which can even be delivered via an on line tutorial. As this three in one system is quicker to install than traditional insulation – many builders report savings of 25 to 50% - this in turn also frees up more man hours.”
RIBA’s call to offer VAT rebates on thermal efficiency measures made to existing homes and research into how to eliminate overheating have also been welcomed, as has the suggestion that the current system of measuring energy efficiency and CO2 emissions should be reviewed.