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New Methods of Construction Needed in London to Combat Skill Shortages

A think tank report is recommending the adoption of modern methods of construction to cope with a mounting skills crisis in the London construction industry.

The Centre for London report examines how off-site housing manufacturing and construction can increase the quality, scale, and speed of housing delivery in the capital.

The report warned that the workforce is ageing and could be diminished even more after Brexit. It pointed out that an estimated 36,000 workers are expected to leave the industry within the next nine years, or 12% of the current workforce.

With EU-born workers accounting for 33% of the construction workforce, this number could fall substantially. To compound the situation, the number of apprenticeships in London’s built industry has gone down by nearly 50% in the five years leading to 2016.

According to a 2017 report prepared by the Greater London Authority, the construction occupations with the greatest skills shortages are on-site trades such as bricklayers, scaffolders, and plant mechanics. It found that modern methods of construction such as off-site housing manufacturing and construction could complete schemes in two-thirds of the time required by traditional construction.

The report also suggests that off-site construction could assist in shifting the workload from the constraints of regular construction sites to a safer and more controlled factory environment. Other benefits include reduced environmental impact and a more diversified workforce.

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The widespread adoption of these modern methods of construction has been slow. The report states that they can help solve London’s housing crisis if there is an investment in skills development, supply chain improvement, promotion of new construction methods, and supportive financing and policy structures.

The report calls on the Mayor of London to use the appropriate funding to help the current construction workforce develop the skills needed to learn new methods. It also recommended that industry bodies support the upskilling of these workers.

To ensure improved collaboration within the London construction sector, it recommended that housing associations and local authorities, backed by the Mayor and the Government, pool their purchasing power and expertise to create an MMC buying club to support the building at scale across several city boroughs.

Centre for London research manager Victoria Pinoncely, who co-authored the report, said that innovative methods of construction were needed to raise housing delivery levels in London.

Lendlease managing director of property, Europe, Mr. Jonathan Emery, said that modern methods could both resolve the issue and improve on-site safety. He called for everyone to share research, work together, and collectively support construction practices that will make the industry stronger.

Darren Rodwell, an executive member for Housing and Planning for the London councils, said that housebuilding needs a major boost. He said that the Centre for London report confirms that innovative construction methods can achieve this goal.

Mr. Rodwell said that boroughs throughout London are committed to delivering the homes that communities need and have shown their willingness to try new construction approaches.

Specialists in Construction Insurance

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