House-builder Barratt Developments is planning further trials of building houses using prefabricated steel frames.
Barratt has been increasingly looking to offsite construction to reduce its reliance on site labour. Approximately 10% of its new homes this year are being built with timber frames but it is now looking beyond this, trialling other ways of building houses more cheaply, including using light gauge steel frames. Barratt aims to produce at least 20% of its new homes using offsite construction methods by 2020.
“We are implementing a number of key initiatives in terms of improving efficiency,” the Barratt board said today. “In addition to building around 1,300 homes during FY17 using timber frames we have completed trials of light gauge steel frames and large format block which give the business additional options with similar benefits as timber frame, ensuring we are future proofing our business. We continue to trial various offsite technologies and innovative products and we are investing in research into smart technologies.”
A 2015 trial project in Southampton saw light gauge steel frames supplied by Fusion Building Systems used in the construction of social housing at Barratt’s Swanbourne Park development in West Sussex. Five men erected nine properties in nine days. Barratt subsequently placed a £3m order with Fusion for a further 160 houses and six apartment blocks across three different sites within its Southampton, Southern Counties and Stratford divisions.
The Barratt efficiency drive has also seen scissors taken to the Barratt and David Wilson housing ranges. “The outcome was a reduction in the number of houses in the range which will increase standardisation, simplify construction and reduce build costs whilst maintaining our high standards of design and quality,” the company said.
For the six months to 31st December 2016 (FY17 H1), Barratt made pre-tax profit of £3231.0m, up nearly 9% compared to the previous year, on revenue up 3.2% to £1816.2m.
Growth was achieved by turning its attention away from the slowing London market to the regions. During the six-month period, completions in London were lower at 367 (2015: 842) in line with the group’s planned build programme, while completions outside of London are at the highest level for nine years at 6,813 (2015: 6,784). Total completions (including JV’s) for the period were 7,180 (2015: 7,626).
Gross margin improved by 2.1 percentage points to 20.7% and operating margin improved by 1.7 percentage points to 17.8%
Chief executive David Thomas said: “With a record forward order book, strong consumer demand and a positive lending backdrop, we remain confident in our outlook for the full year.”