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Collaborative workshops launched to maximise benefits from off-site construction

Workshops to explore ways to increase off-site construction of affordable homes launched by Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart MSP.

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The first of a series of collaborative workshops to explore ways to increase off-site construction of affordable homes was launched at Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) yesterday by Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning Kevin Stewart MSP.

The Scottish Government is keen to consider ways of maximising the value achieved through its Affordable Housing Supply Programme and wishes to explore the potential for greater use of off-site techniques to potentially speed up construction, reduce costs and address skills and labour shortages. Currently around 80% of housing in Scotland is built using timber frame, however, only a small percentage uses the more advanced forms of off-site construction.

The workshops are part of a wider partnership project to investigate increasing off-site construction in housing, particularly in the affordable sector. The collaboration between CSIC, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, which commenced in October 2018, aims to provide recommendations to the government and the affordable housing sector to help influence future policy.

The project has been supported by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Offsite Solutions Scotland, Homes for Scotland, ALACHO and COSLA via a steering panel that has provided guidance throughout the project.

Phase 1 of the project identified the challenges, issues and barriers that the affordable housing sector faces, and assessed the ability of the offsite industry to meet these challenges. The second phase examined the current and future capacity of the offsite industry through mapping existing companies, their capabilities and their development plans. Phases 1 and 2 have been led by teams from Edinburgh Napier University.

The workshops are part of Phase 3, which will see stakeholders working together to co-design and test possible solutions. Led by the Innovation School at the Glasgow School of Art, the workshops will bring together perspectives from across the affordable housing sector, from procurement to design and build and delivery. They will explore the innovation challenge and opportunity around offsite, looking in detail at the areas of funding, procurement, culture, perceptions, design, performance, resources and skills.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Everyone deserves a safe, warm, affordable place to call home. I believe that greater use of off-site construction could help modernise the way we deliver affordable homes. I am pleased to see people from all disciplines working together to maximise the opportunities available to the sector.”

Stephen Good, chief executive of CSIC said: “The construction industry is facing a period of significant change. The 2016 Farmer Review highlighted many of the current issues such as low productivity, lack of research and development, low investment in innovation and a skills shortage. These issues cannot be addressed by the industry working in isolation, which is why collaborative multi-disciplinary initiatives such as these workshops are vital to help to drive change. The outcomes of the workshops and the wider project will be made publicly available over the course of summer 2019.”