Oliver Rehm of kit house provider Baufritz discusses the increasing move towards offsite ‘modern methods of construction’ (MMC), why self-builders should consider it, and what offsite manufacturers can do to help them on their journey
What is your assessment of the current housebuilding marketplace?
The UK has woken up to the benefits of using prefabrication to deliver modern houses. As building standards become stricter in relationship to energy efficiency and sustainability, manufacturers are in a good position to meet the demand. At Baufritz we feel the legislation changes needed in the development of new building standards strongly play into modern manufacturing methods.
What major trends have you noticed recently within the sector as a whole?
Traditionally single building firms would construct housing estates containing a large number of almost identical buildings, but consumers are beginning to change their view of what a house should look like. They believe that rather than accepting a generic build, which doesn’t meet their requirements, they should be able to define what they want and get their build delivered on time and on budget. There’s been a lot of negative press relating to quality issues associated with traditional building methods – consumers are waking up to the fact that prefabricated ‘kit’ houses are adhering to industry defined quality standards.
What services do kit house suppliers provide?
In most cases, they are able to deliver all aspects of a client’s building project. They start by taking the conceptual ideas and developing these into architectural designs. They then support the client through the planning process. Once planning is approved, they are able to manufacture and erect the building, either as a fully turnkey solution managing all aspects of construction, or just the shell made up of the walls and roof.
What are the key differentiators between brick and mortar build and offsite construction?
People assume that all offsite construction is the same, but it’s quite the opposite. No two houses are the same. For example, Baufritz has developed a six-step process which allows customers to control their housebuilding journey, including a visit to our design centre as part of the building process.
Reputable kit house suppliers should be using tried and tested construction methods and materials which guarantee a quality finish. A lot of manufacturers are starting to shift to more sustainable building practices and healthier houses. We like to think of ourselves as an eco-builder, for example. Look for a supplier who uses natural materials, where the production of sustainable houses is fundamental to their ethos and they minimise waste products from the manufacturing process.
Today’s new build homes should also be free from harmful chemicals, which have unfortunately become standard in many traditional building methods. As a consequence, all the materials used in the construction should be tested to ensure no harmful chemicals are present.
Finally, a good kit house supplier should also be looking to offset the carbon needed in the construction and transportation process.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing kit house suppliers?
After a couple of uncertain years surrounding the nature of the future relationship between the UK and the EU, looking forward we’re hopeful people will continue to recognise that timber construction really is the future. It is encouraging that the interest in eco-friendly methods of homebuilding seemingly remains unbroken.
Although MMC are often pitched to the wider housebuilding industry, where there generally seems to be a decline in the number of detached houses being built – what with building plots becoming scarce, rapid urbanisation and an ageing population – there’s no reason why self-builders shouldn’t consider timber construction as their first choice when building their dream home. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better building system on the market that can offer striking architecture, a high build quality and environmental excellence. Beyond that, a turnkey building service is often one stop from design to completion of the building, and often comes with a tailor-made annual maintenance and service contract. Moreover, it comes at a fair and fixed transparent price. The whole process of designing and building should be fun for everyone involved and create a responsible and sustainable environment.
Oliver Rehm is CEO of Baufritz