Published On: Tue, Mar 20th, 2018

Heads start to turn towards new build (again)

Since the 1970s, there have been on average 160,000 new homes built in England each year. In more recent years, at the height of the last construction boom, annual figures were sitting around the 200,000 mark on a regular basis. It has been widely acknowledged that into order to keep up with population growth and to tackle years of under supply we need to be building between 225,000 and 275,000 homes per year. Recent signs are encouraging. In 2016-17, 217,350 new homes were completed and it looks as if, with recent government proposals to ease the planning process, we could be edging towards the magic 250,000 mark. There is currently an abundance of ideas being bandied about to facilitate an acceleration and increase in housebuilding, from simplifying the planning process to making it easier to build upwards on existing blocks of flats and houses. The figures and predictions look attractive and the question is, should fabricators (and installers) start looking more seriously at the new-build sector again?

Since the last peak in the new-build market, construction methods have evolved. With the emphasis now very much on the speed of construction, greater energy efficiency and maximising light and space, the products specified are of even greater importance. The trends for modular housing and off-site manufacturing often play perfectly into the hands of volume product-manufacturers. I remember visiting a fabricator at the height of the last housebuilding boom who was considering manufacturing windows and doors for only 5 large housebuilder customers, dedicating one day of manufacturing for each customer every week. At the time, the volumes allowed it, but it simply didn’t make good business sense, as it completely overlooked the importance of servicing the trade market. The industry is waking up to the importance of modular housing and off-site manufacturing of homes – the question is, how much does a fabricator commit to this market? When you consider we could be seeing a minimum of 1,750,000 windows, 750,000 doors and 25,000 conservatories/orangeries being installed into new houses in the future, is this enough to turn the heads of fabricators capable of adhering to the demands of modern-day construction methods? It’s food for thought, but what we can learn from the past is that it’s very dangerous to ignore the bread and butter trade sector. Many of the companies I have spoken to over the years have said the new-build sector was a nice bonus, but they wish they had paid more attention to their trade customers, as it was a tough job winning them back when they needed them most.

John CowieEditor