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or Timber –

howwill the

housing market


With an increased emphasis on modern methods of

construction and the benefits of off-site manufacturing,

the steel industry is increasingly developing new systems

for homes of the future. Phil Bloomfield, Commercial

Director at the British Board of Agrément (BBA), discuss-

es how it could even challenge the dominance of tim-

ber-framed houses in the years to come.

There is nothing new about steel-framed homes,

which were widely used to tackle the housing shortage

just after the Second World War – and many are still

standing and are being refurbished by housing associa-

tions to bring them up to modern standards.

Until fairly recently it was almost impossible to obtain

a competitive mortgage on a steel-framed home because

of corrosion problems and other perceived disadvan-

tages, but that has all changed, say the BBA, who are

working with key suppliers to raise standards and im-

prove quality to meet the demand for offsite


The housing and residential sector demands buildings

that are energy efficient, that offer rapid construction

potential and are of high quality. Steel and composite

construction has achieved a significant market share in

the medium-rise residential sector in the UK because of

the need to build quickly, particularly in urban


The main market for steel is in multi-storey residential

buildings where off-site manufacture and speed of

construction is paramount. This is important in large

urban projects in tight infill locations or in mixed-use


All steel construction uses prefabricated components

that are rapidly installed on site. Short construction

periods lead to savings in site preliminaries, an earlier

return on investment and reduced interest charges.

Speed of construction in urban residential projects is

important to minimise disturbance to adjoining


All good news for steel then – but that’s not to say

that timber-framed homes will lose out. A new report

on the state of the timber-frame market suggests that

the industry continues to outperform the UK economy,

despite slowing slightly from recent double-digit growth.

Rising volume demand for timber-framed homes

over the last few years has sustained optimism with

increasing market opportunities at both lower and higher

value ends of the market. This has underpinned the

timber-frame market with a number of timber-frame

suppliers having good or excellent credit ratings in 2016.

So the battle is on – timber or metal – they both have

their place.

British Board of Agrément (BBA)

Contractors World UK Ireland Vol 6 No 2