In advance of its launch of an offsite house, the Keystone Group commercial director Sean Og Coyle explains what actions the firm is taking to meet the challenges outlined in the government’s Housing White Paper
“This country doesn’t have enough homes. That’s not a personal opinion or a political calculation. It’s a simple fact.”
Stark words indeed from Sajid Javid, secretary of state for communities and local government, but it is a reality with which the British public are faced.
The government’s determined focus on the need to address the housing crisis has thrown down the gauntlet to the housebuilding industry. Ambitious targets, hampered by the lack of skills and labour shortages, leaves housebuilders throughout the country considering how they can join the current “offsite” revolution in our industry.
Design and manufacturing
Of course none of this comes as a surprise to those of us in the industry which is why the Keystone Group has progressively invested in design and manufacturing capabilities to meet these challenges. We operate at the sharp end, working closely with housebuilders to develop the innovative solutions which are most likely to be adopted on the basis that they are commercially sound and practical.
Central to the themes of this latest White Paper are the issues of increasing the speed of construction and diversifying the market. The government has given their commitment to exploring innovation and to embracing modern methods of construction, citing the many advantages this will bring to this broken industry.
The White Paper reports: “ ... homes constructed offsite can be built up to 30% more quickly than traditional methods and with a potential 25% reduction in costs. They are high quality, reliable, more productive and can be highly efficient. They can require fewer people on site, helping to mitigate the skills shortage. Some firms are increasing their use of these methods, but we need to go further.”
Given the above assertions, we believe that the future supply of housing will be met by either factory built modular homes or a more versatile factory fabricated flat pack system. The Keystone Group’s product range covers all the major components needed to deliver the latter and we are currently partnering with housebuilders in delivering this solution.
The opportunity for housebuilders is now to embrace the industry’s change to modern methods of construction. Indeed many major housebuilders have made commitments that sizeable percentages of the homes they build this year will be produced offsite. The White Paper makes it clear that change will have to occur across the board if the future is not to be a repeat of the past.
“Keyhouse” draws on the expertise within our timber division including our own roof truss company, our newly acquired timber frame house company and our well-established market leader Smartroof. Allied to our IG masonry support and brickslip systems, Keystone Lintels, Keylite Roof Windows and our range of GRP dormers, chimneys and decorative door and window surrounds, we now produce everything needed to deliver our customer needs.
We have a reputation in the industry for innovation across a range of offsite products and this track record attracts interest amongst major developers and leads to their engagement with our R&D team which gets involved in their strategic planning for new building methods.
The recent engagement of the services of Chris Hagan to lead the Keyhouse project demonstrates our commitment to this product. His experience at Space4, the timber frame division of Persimmon Homes, will help us to serve the market with a factory built house whilst maintaining the quality, expertise and customer care that customers have come to expect from The Keystone Group.
Keystone’s track record in offsite to date has been strong as we have focused on developing factory built housing components which enable housebuilders to enjoy the key benefits of offsite, including build quality, enhanced energy efficiency and a reduction of onsite risks to the health and safety of staff.