Project Scotland

Scotland streets ahead of England in affordable housebuilding

Last month, housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP revealed that Scotland has delivered a third more affordable homes per capita over the last decade than England.

Speaking in response to a parliamentary question, Mr Stewart revealed that 70,861 affordable homes had been built from April 2007 to September 2017, while housebuilding in England has stagnated to its lowest levels since 1923.

On paper this sounds positive, and the news that Scotland is building affordable housing at a faster rate than elsewhere in the UK is of course welcome, but is it enough to meet the ambitious targets set out by Scottish ministers back in 2016?

Recent figures show that the number of affordable homes completed per quarter since the middle of 2016 has averaged just 1,808: well below the 2,673 needed to reach the 50,000 target by 2021.

A step change in our approach to housebuilding is clearly needed then, if we are to meet this target. Scotland’s housebuilders need to embrace more efficient ways of working, including innovative materials and off-site manufacturing techniques.

Off-site manufacture is a term that has dominated industry news headlines of late, and with good reason. It offers many advantages, and often homes manufactured using off-site manufacturing techniques are not only more cost effective to build and construct, but also to live in.

Panelised building systems like Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) allow homes to be built faster and ensure a higher quality finished product due to the state-of-the-art machinery with which they are prepared. They also conform with higher sustainability standards compared with traditional construction methods due to the excellent thermal properties, very low thermal bridging, and inherent air-tight characteristics.

We need to build houses quickly to tackle the challenges facing Scotland’s housing stock. But we need to do so in a way that ensures they are both efficient and built to last. Housebuilders need to consider construction methods earlier in the design process to ensure that each home’s whole-life cost and environmental benefits are considered. There needs to be a focus on low energy usage and speed of construction, without sacrificing structural or design integrity.

There has never been a better time for housebuilders in Scotland to take a more enlightened approach to housing provision. I hope that the industry proves itself equal to the challenges ahead and that we can embrace new technologies to deliver high quality affordable homes for future generations.

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