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Guest blog: New home quality with modern methods of construction

By Graham Sibley, NHBC Market Development Manager

It is increasingly clear that housing output at a time of declining availability of skills requires ever more innovation by the house-building industry and greater use of modern methods of construction (MMC). As the Farmer Review and the Housing White Paper stress, without a change to the status quo, the prospects of making real progress in tackling the UK’s housing need are severely limited.

At NHBC we are witnessing an upsurge in interest in offsite construction, with increasing numbers of systems and components being put forward to us for assessment against the NHBC Standards. Such reviews are essential, to be assured that homes and their component parts are designed, manufactured and constructed to consistently meet performance standards.

NHBCInspectionshoot-Onsite_NHBCInspectionshoot-144_375.jpgIt is an established expectation amongst homeowners, landlords, investors and mortgage companies that new homes will last a very long time. Reflecting this expectation, NHBC explicitly requires a life of 60 years for the structure.

This means that materials and components need to be selected and assembled carefully so that a 60 year lifespan can be achieved in reality, with the construction of the finished home having the durability and resilience to withstand the vagaries of the UK climate. In practice, homes designed for 60 years can be expected to last well beyond that time.

The key question we are looking to answer for investors and lenders in particular is whether we can provide insurance on the finished home, rather than simply assurance that the components are robust and manufactured to a consistent quality.

Investors and lenders want to know that homes they potentially invest in or provide mortgages on will be of sufficient quality, so NHBC is working very closely with off-site component manufacturers, architects, developers and contractors to help ensure that homes built using these components are of the same finished standard as traditionally built homes.

As the leading home warranty and insurance provider and standard-setter for UK house-building, NHBC’s warranty and insurance products cover around 80% of new homes built in the UK and currently protect over 1.4 million homes across the private, affordable and rental sectors.

Over time, we have seen a range of systems and components coming to market – some more successful than others. We have witnessed unforeseen issues with finished homes and we learn lessons from the issues we view during inspections on site and from claims for structural defects. Data collected from our on-site inspections and claims is constantly analysed and fed back to facilitate continuous improvement and updating of NHBC Standards, which ultimately benefits homebuyers. This “virtuous circle” enables NHBC to evolve house-building Standards to accommodate emerging issues and new methods.

Once NHBC has reviewed the design and manufacturing quality of components against the need for at least a 60-year life, and assessed the transport, storage and integration into the finished home against the technical standards, we will provide the same warranty as we would on a traditionally built home. As long as these standards are met, NHBC will provide the same level of warranty and insurance on new homes whatever their construction.

We see MMC as an important component in delivering more homes, quicker, and to a high quality standard, and will continue to work with manufacturers and builders to ensure a quality product that will stand the test of time.

For more information on the NHBC's Buildmark warranties, visit NHBC.co.uk

Originally published in Society Matters winter 2017 edition.
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Posted by Graham Sibley on 09 February 2018