Rachel Smith, General Manager at Polypipe Underfloor Heating outlines how manufacturer investment in aftersales services can give small and medium housebuilders an edge.
If any group within the construction sector has its finger on the pulse and can anticipate its peaks and troughs, it is small and medium sized housebuilders.
Today the small housebuilder sector is at the heart of the challenge to build new homes in the UK. It will be central to shaping the construction sector following Brexit and to help mitigate the expected exodus of labour resources through retirement and migration during the coming years.
Furthermore, as there is a need for a resurgence in this sector to help improve the range of options and delivery models for new homes, any help that can be provided from across the sector is crucial. The government is investing in small and medium housebuilders by providing a £1 billion housebuilding fund, with loans ranging from £5 million to £100 million available, used to cover up to 80% of the project costs.
Polypipe is one manufacturer that is looking at alternative ways to make the housebuilding process as straightforward as possible by improving the resources available. We think housebuilders should look beyond the products supplied and collaborate with manufacturers to improve their overall project delivery.
Collaboration with builders
Manufacturers are already a crucial part of the supply chain, so why should our collaboration with builders end once products have been bought and the transaction completed?
We have a full dedicated design service based at our new technical office in Doncaster set up to provide small housebuilders with expertise and access to extensive industry experience. This service is free and only requires contacting Polypipe to speak to one of our team.
The 26-strong team, with previous experience as onsite project consultants, managers and estimators, can give small housebuilders an edge in a market that is increasingly dictated by delivery on demand methods.
As part of the design service, the Polypipe team takes plans (which can be supplied in a number of formats) and develops a list of heating or drainage products that would best serve the project. We can also offer installation instructions.
In addition, our team is working towards inputting supplied designs into BIM and Revit software to produce 3D drawings – an added benefit that small housebuilders often have to work without.
The design service supplies calculations on building heat loss along with advice on best use of heating products. The company has also invested in supplying BPEC and RIBA-accredited training courses to housebuilders to assist with understanding best practice installation methods, to ensure attendees can supply homes with heating and drainage systems that meet and exceed building standards.
This is not just about box-ticking. With small and medium sized builders most at risk from falling foul of the current inefficient and inconsistent planning system – 42% of minor residential planning applications are subject to extension of time requests, environmental impact assessments and performance agreements, according to the Housing Builders Association – housebuilders need to mitigate the risk to their pipeline of work by demonstrating ability to deliver homes that satisfy all quality assessments.
Greater collaboration between manufacturers and housebuilders to find solutions to onsite challenges can lead to improvements in the products and systems available to housebuilders. We have worked on a number of projects that can prove this case.
For example, Polypipe’s design team recently assisted with a project of eight luxury residential barn conversions based in Cheshire. Our expert design engineers helped the developer, Delemere Homes, to create a bespoke heating solution with maximum performance underfloor heating systems.
Following consultation and collaboration, the resulting solution was a screeded system being installed in the ground floor and Polypipe’s Modular Heating Panels being specified for the upper floors. These panels come preconfigured with piping set inside insulated panels which can be installed between joists, ensuring maximum heat output with no increase to the finished floor height.
There are stark challenges facing the housebuilding sector, and small and medium sized housebuilders need to be supported by the wider construction sector. There is an opportunity for these types of businesses to increase their prominence in the market with government backed initiatives. By investing in the expertise available to small and medium housebuilders at the end of a phone, Polypipe is hoping our design service can assist the many good quality regional companies gain additional free support, and help to kick start a new generation of housebuilding businesses.