West Midlands Building Technology Cluster – Market Opportunities

Topics Covered

Background

Market Opportunities

Market sectors

House Building Sector

Precast Concrete

Market Developments

Affordable Housing

Wider Market Opportunities

Background

This article is an extract from a report by West Midlands Building Technology Cluster Research, published May 2002, which details the results of a study commissioned by Advantage West Midlands to outline strategic options to facilitate the future development of the building technologies cluster in the West Midlands region.  Top

Market Opportunities

The future construction industry will still be dependent on the performance of the economy as a whole. However, drivers and trends discussed in the report suggests that new opportunities are emerging for building materials and products that provide potential opportunities for the West Midlands building technologies supplies industry. Top

Market sectors

The construction market comprises of four main sectors e.g house building, infrastructure, industrial and commercial, each of which consume considerable amounts of building materials, products, equipment and services. This section of the report provides an overview of the market prospects, both for traditional construction and possible future developments in the building technologies supplies industry. Top

House Building Sector

The house building sector accounts for around 40% of UK construction output, valued at about £27 billion per annum. Repair and maintenance has the largest share representing 65% (of the housing market, new work accounts for the remaining 35%. In 2000 around 176,000 new houses were built  valued at £10 billion. Traditional masonry build is the primary method of construction currently representing approximately 86% of all new housing starts. However, timber frame (modular) construction, with 12% of UK share has growth by 4% since 1999 and is forecast by many industry analysts to see double digit growth over the next 5 years, driven to a large extent by building regulations for improved thermal efficiency, skills shortages, shorter erection time etc. Steel frame construction currently only accounts for less than 2% of building construction, mainly in the commercial/industrial buildings sector. Availability of figures are for use of precast concrete in modular construction of prefabricated buildings. Top

Precast Concrete

The main applications for precast concrete in building is primarily for components e.g blocks, pavements, suspended floors etc, although there is growing interest in precast panels as either ‘flat-pack) or volumetric (3D) modular construction. Use of precast concrete modular construction offers specific benefits, including improved fire resistance, thermal insulation performance and heat storage/recovery, sound insulation, durability and robustness. In the UK however, there appears to be market resistance in the use of precast 2D wall panels and 3D modular construction for house building, which is not the case in other countries.  A recent report sponsored by the British Cement Association shows that precast concrete is well established in mainland Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. Top

Market Developments

Market developments are:

•        25,000 dwellings constructed in 1998 using precast concrete elements

•        24% of homes in the former East Germany were prefabricated

•        Precast concrete has 10% share of the total housing market in Holland

•        One large house building contractor in Japan builds over 100,000 flat-pack or modular homes per year

•        30% of all homes in the USA are prefabricated  Top

Affordable Housing

Shortages of affordable housing in the UK are well documented. New methods of construction will required to meet the predicted demand for 3.8 million new homes by 2020. Clearly, there is significant market potential for all types (e.g timber, steel frame and precast concrete) of prefabricated modular buildings in the UK. It provides a future opportunity for the West Midlands, which has a strong skills base in automated manufacturing and training facilities necessary for upskilling of the workforce to meet future housing demand. One new start-up company (Kinsley Taylor Ltd) has recently located in the West Midlands. Key issues and uncertainties that need to be taken into account are:

•        Market resistance

•        Available manufacturing capacity

•        Training of the local workforce

•        Availability of finance for capital investment  Top

Wider Market Opportunities

Apart from modular construction, wider markets opportunities for the region include:

•        Sustainable materials, products and buildings materials

•        High performance materials and products

•        Diversification opportunities for related sectors e.g component manufacture, prefabricated welded structures, electronic management systems etc

•        Reclamation technologies for brownfield/contaminated land

•        Smart products and buildings with embedded sensors

•        Renewable energy power/heating systems e.g. solar, fuel cells etc

•        Sustainable building designs incorporating renewable energy

•        High performance repair technologies

•        Facilities management services  Top

Source: West Midlands Building Technologies Cluster Research

             A Summary of the Results and Recommendations, May 2002

For more information on this source please email [email protected]

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