Stewart Dalgarno, director of product development at Stewart Milne Group, discusses how AIMCH, a collaborative research and development project is set to revolutionise the future of housebuilding in this country
IT’S a well-documented fact that the UK has for some time been experiencing a housing shortage, particularly in the provision of much-needed affordable homes. However, the Scottish housebuilding industry has been making positive strides in the right direction, with Scottish Government statistics highlighting a 12% increase in the completion of affordable homes compared to 2018.
But with strict targets and time marching on – the Government has stated 50,000 affordable homes are to be delivered by 2021 – there is significant pressure on Government, developers and the construction sector in Scotland to deliver more affordable homes to higher quality and standards, with less skills.
One project aiming to address these challenges is the Advanced Industrialised Methods of Construction of Homes (AIMCH).
The flagship three-year Innovate UK-funded research and development project aims to combat the housing shortage in Scotland and the UK by bringing together key players within the sector, including Stewart Milne Group, Barratt Developments, L&Q, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Forster Roofing Services to develop industrialised housing solutions to transform how we build homes.
The goal of the £6 million initiative is to bring about mainstream delivery of digital design, advanced manufacturing, panelised offsite construction and lean modular methods of construction for the same or less cost than conventional methods. The project could potentially impact up to 35,000 homes per year delivered by project partners across the UK helping deliver the 120,000 homes needed each year.
With skills, quality and productivity being key issues facing the industry right now, coupled with an increased demand to fulfil targets, developing mainstream viable modern construction methods which can build affordable, high-quality and low-carbon homes at scale becomes the clear priority.
Digital integration, design for manufacture and assembly, standardisation, advanced offsite manufacturing integrated supply chain and team site assembly can become the real alternative to the traditional construction methods, and it’s exactly what the project is aiming to address.
There’s no denying that digital working and offsite construction is quickly becoming a more popular way to build, driven by consumer and government demands for homes, skill shortages in the industry and important environmental considerations.
Offsite construction provides a practical viable alternative to traditional methods as it is more sustainable, homes can be built faster and with less defects leading to better availability, increased efficiency and cost effectiveness.
AIMCH plans to develop concepts, prototypes and trial solutions on live projects while spearheading the collaborative adoption of new techniques, with successful methods then commercialised and brought to market on a large scale.
The project will gather data with hard evidence from live construction sites to provide insight, inform decision-making and help business cases for investment and modernisation.
The focus of the research and development is about delivering mainstream panelised offsite construction methods with advanced digital integration in standardisation, manufacturing, supply chain, and lean construction assembly processes to create a robust, viable here-and-now alternative to conventional brick and block.
Funded by Innovate UK, AIMCH sets out to revolutionise the housing sector through clear and concise approaches to de-risk the build process and increase predictability of housebuilding with confidence. AIMCH will place an emphasis on offsite panelised construction which can produce large volumes of homes at pace and viably.
With a focus on timber frame build systems, Stewart Milne Group plays an integral role within AIMCH as lead industry partner, providing a wealth of experience and expertise.
The AIMCH project can be the catalyst for the housing sector in the UK through modernisation and advancing construction methods to establish the UK as global leaders in housing delivery.
By identifying challenges and moving to an integrated approach, housebuilding will become significantly quicker, higher quality, less skills dependant and cost effective.
AIMCH is a significant step in the right direction to bridging the housing deficit within Scotland. With research and development at the forefront, we will be able to create and sustain a long-term economic solution and modernise our housing building capabilities to meet future demand.