Home News Specifying building materials for social housing is a liability landmine, say industry...

New research has revealed that eight in ten social housing professionals believe that there are still a worrying number of liability concerns surrounding the construction of social housing developments, and that the revisions needed to the Decent Homes Standard should have happened when the social housing white paper was released in November last year.

In a survey of 150 decision makers involved in the specification of building materials used for social housing, 80% agreed that further clarification on which products are suitable is required in order to confidently specify building materials.

The research by Wienerberger, a manufacturer of wall, roof and landscaping innovations, explored several key social housing issues, including the housing shortage, sustainability and building quality. It found that the sector was in desperate need of support and guidance if it is to overcome the challenges it’s facing. This guidance was expected to be included in the social housing white paper which was released late last year, but it failed to clarify a number of key details the sector was waiting on.

When asked what they’d like to see in this guidance, respondents highlighted the following:

  • Any revised Decent Homes Standard legislation should include extended warranties on building materials to give both the landlord and tenant additional protection (82% of respondents agreed)
  • A clear guide to approved building materials should be included in the next version of the Decent Homes Standard (80% of respondents agreed)
  • Without knowing what is going to be in the revised Decent Homes Standard, it’s difficult to know which building materials to use (75% of respondents agreed)

While dealing with liability and specification concerns, the social housing sector also needs to increase the rate at which new homes are built to meet the government’s target of 300,000 new homes by 2025. 67% of the contractors Wienerberger surveyed said that in order to achieve this, more guidance and support is required from the government.

Another important target that the social housing sector must consider, is how it is going to meet the government’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2025. As energy use in UK homes accounts for 14% of the nation’s emissions, this poses a significant issue.

When asked, contractors saw their main obstacles to cutting carbon emissions as being a lack of legislation (44%) as well as a lack of understanding around how to build energy efficient homes (44%).

Wienerberger discussed its research findings with a panel of senior decision makers from across the social housing sector during a virtual roundtable. During the discussion, Nick Gornall, Head of Development at Great Places Housing Group, shared his views: “In terms of liability, we’re in it for the long haul in the social housing sector, so if we build badly, however it might be, we are only putting pressure on ourselves and damaging our own reputation. Our strong client principals underpin all of our development activity and play a key role in ensuring we don’t build the liabilities of the future.”

John Harris, Head of Sales – Housing at Wienerberger added: “If we were confident in the number of homes that were going to be built then we could invest in the products and labour required etc. But we need a clear strategy in order to get to that point, which currently is lacking.”


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