Eos Architects Director Campbell Lammie questions whether we are looking in the right place for solutions to innovation in housing in Wales
27 Apr 2017
Communities and Children Secretary Carl Sargeant said 9th Feb 2017 :
“The housing sector in Wales is facing many challenges. We know we need to build more homes, quickly. We know the homes we build have to be cheaper to heat, more environmentally friendly and more capable of responding to the demographic challenges ahead. Just increasing the number of homes we build isn’t enough. Building homes that are great places to live and good for our planet is what I want. We need to start looking at more innovation, at homes that can be built faster as panels in factories or whole units delivered to site on lorries. We need to look at what homes are made from and what else they offer in terms of fuel bills, carbon emissions, jobs. This is a big challenge but it’s possible.”
Embedded within this statement is a clear call to the construction industry to deliver sustainable solutions and a steer toward “off-site” construction.
Unfortunately, “off-site” remains held back in Wales by inflexible procurement rules and limiting government compliance legislation. The current and outdated Welsh Government “Development Quality Requirements” (DQR) are too prescriptive with regard to dimensional requirements and inflexible compared to the English systems. Procurement rule changes that will be necessary to realise some of the more innovative construction ideas are not being encouraged in Wales, where a move away from collaborative procurement utilising “Design & Build” contract types, is increasingly seeing an adversarial approach to construction which is less conducive to the development of new working methods.
There are plenty of Welsh businesses making significant “in-roads” to the delivery of innovative housing solutions to the English housing sectors where there are “less limiting” procurement factors and a willingness to take the risk that will be necessary if innovation is to flourish.
If the Welsh government’s lead in this direction is to be realised, a dialogue needs to be held with those companies in Wales, who are currently delivering the innovative housing solutions in England, that we are calling for in Wales.