Phil Cox, MPA Masonry, looks at how supply chain issues can be solved by utilising the building products we have right here in the UK
With a recession looming, an ongoing energy crisis, and continuous uncertainty in the political landscape, housebuilders and developers are in an uncomfortable position in 2022.
And there’s an additional problem much closer to home. The absence of affordable housing has been an issue for more than a decade. It’s a situation that hasn’t been helped by the frequent revolving door of new housing ministers, with 12 being appointed within a 12-year period.
Now that supply chain issues have become more acute due to Brexit and severe geopolitical turmoil, the lack of housing stock will be a difficult problem to solve, as essential raw materials simply aren’t readily available.
Yet, there is a way forward, and part of the solution is centred on utilising the building products we have right here in the UK.
The choice is simple
Ongoing geopolitics in Eastern Europe has been well documented and the knock-on effect has been damaging. Supply chain struggles have led to construction materials snowballing in price, and with many building products such as timber and steel arriving from abroad, high transportation costs are also holding back progress.
All the above has contributed to the Government’s plans to build 300,000 extra homes yearly by 2025, being scrapped.
Thankfully, although the residential sector is facing disruption, a ready solution in the form of masonry is accessible nearer to home.
The fact that the majority of masonry materials are produced in the UK provides a local solution while other channels remain strained. What’s more, the domestic availability of this material category will aid in meeting sustainability targets.
With the Future Homes Standard and changes to the Building Regulations now in effect, the thermal performance of construction materials is more important than ever.
Specifically, guidelines now request a 30% reduction in emissions for new-build homes leading into 2025.
Masonry as a material choice can kill two birds with one stone, by stepping in and providing some much-needed respite at a time when material costs are sky-high, while additionally helping to meet the requirements of Part L and lowering emissions.
Safety is paramount
With the introduction of the Building Safety Act 2022, and changes to the Defective Premises Act 1972, extra scrutiny is required by developers to ensure building products are safe and scalable.
Strict liability is now enforced and any breaches of the DPA will result in legal action, as the claims period on homes has now increased to 30 years. This has led everyone, from asset owners to product producers, to now primarily focus on occupant safety, along with ongoing monitoring and strengthening of fire safety rules.
The good news is that because masonry is naturally resistant to fire, it can achieve these requirements while decreasing the danger of fire and ensuring greater structural security.
Not only does this material operate superbly in terms of being fire resistant, but it also avoids the release of any potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or droplets, delivering the greatest possible form of security in the worst circumstances.
With masonry-built dwellings having a life expectancy of 100 years, further safety and security will be given to both tenants and housebuilders alike.
Teamwork bring success
Due to the current energy crisis, it is now essential to be able to offer Part L in order to improve a building’s thermal performance.
Cavity walls made of masonry offer a ready-made, well-tested example. These systems, which are frequently constructed, can unquestionably deliver maximum thermal performance, especially when upgraded with the newest cutting-edge components.
For instance, high-performance insulating boards with low-conductivity graphene connections can achieve extremely low U-Values while reducing the possibility of thermal bridging.
So, in addition to being a win-win situation for Part L compliance, this also enables residents to have some relief during the coming winter by lowering energy bills at a time when energy prices are expected to be overwhelming.
Safety brings relief
Sadly, there is no quick fix for the housing shortage. Progress is being hampered by numerous setbacks, including political instability.
But rather than dawdle while big decisions are being made in Parliament, housebuilders can take a lead and make the right choice regarding raw materials, to help secure the future.
Light is at the end of the tunnel. We don’t have to start from scratch to address the problem. By seeking tried and tested, locally-available, high-quality masonry materials, we can advance our housing stock at a far faster rate.
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