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Brexit EU worker uncertainty increases need for speedy building methods, says Actis
Fears that Britain’s construction industry could lose more than 175,000 EU workers if the country does not retain access to the European single market after Brexit underline the importance of concentrating on quicker methods of homebuilding.

That’s the message from insulation specialist Actis, in the light of the latest report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which says the 8% drop in the sector’s workforce would have serious ramifications for infrastructure and construction projects.

It would also have a major impact on hitting housing targets, says Actis UK and Ireland sales director Mark Cooper.

“The country is already struggling to keep up with demand for a number of reasons, including the less than ideal workforce size we have at the moment. Losing a large chunk of skilled people is clearly not going to help the situation,” he said.

While he welcomed last week’s budget announcement of new T-levels which would give technical qualifications such as construction parity with academic subjects, the newly qualified ‘home grown’ talent would not fill the gaping hole left by the departure of workers from other European countries, he said.

He added that the RICS quarterly report showed that 20% of those surveyed said apprenticeship schemes aimed at encouraging more UK talent were not effective and that more needed to be done to educate industry about the benefits of apprenticeships.

Mark explained that the lack of existing skilled workers and the length of time before the first new T-level students graduate both pointed to looking at the situation from a different angle.

“As well as training up new blood, the industry must seriously give more attention to quicker, innovative though equally effective methods of construction, such as timber frame,” he explained.

Indeed, this was one of the recommendations made in the recent Farmer Review of the Construction Labour Model.

“With timber frame homes being built around 30% faster than traditional brick and block, there are obvious advantages. Fewer skilled man-hours are required and some of the services can be completed by less highly trained workers. This doesn’t mean they are less well built. Far from it. The construction is such that they are often more energy efficient than traditional builds.

“Some of the components – insulation for example – are quick and easy to install. Indeed, installing Actis Hybrid products can be taught via a series of web tutorials. As these three-in-one systems are quicker to install than traditional insulation – many builders report savings of 25 to 50% - this in turn also frees up more man hours.”

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