David Campbell, Commercial Director at NHBC talks exclusively to Showhome magazine about how to support and train the housebuilding construction industry
How do you think the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the industry?
When I joined the company in January 2020, no one could have predicted what was about to unfold just a few months later, but I would say overall the sector has been highly resilient and has bounced back.
We have all become increasingly used to the ‘new normal’ of living through a global pandemic that has changed our way of life and how we work together. This has been compounded by unprecedented economic uncertainties including the UK’s exit from the EU which has caused some turbulence in the supply chain.
It is encouraging to see that NHBC’s new home registrations at the start of 2021 have overtaken registrations from the same time last year. With a slump in registrations in Q2 2020 as a result of lockdown restrictions when construction on most sites was halted, followed by a strong recovery in Q3 and Q4, the latest figures show that the sector has recovered strongly.
Increased new home registrations reflect growing confidence amongst builders, most of whom are forward sold through the summer. Allied to continued investment for example in Build to Rent, along with other alternative residential sectors, this suggests a strong outlook for the new-build sector in the year ahead.
You offer a wide range of training opportunities, from webinars to apprenticeships, have you been able to continue this despite Covid?
I’m pleased to say that NHBC and our people have been remarkably adaptable in dealing with the many challenges we have faced since the first national lockdown last March.
For example, last year we adapted to the ever-changing circumstances by launching a successful campaign of virtual training on a range of key issues which was eventually delivered to more than 30,000 participants and we became a registered apprenticeship provider last September, to ensure the sector gets the apprenticeship provision it needs.
Indeed, we continue to strengthen and expand our training business to meet demand. In the past year alone, we have delivered around 17,300 training days through virtual means. The success of this online delivery means that it will remain part of our portfolio even after the return of face-to-face training once Covid-19 restrictions allow.
With strong demand for our apprenticeship offering, training courses, webinars and NVQs, we are playing a major part in helping the industry tackle the skills shortage which is highly important as the industry emerges from the pandemic and attempts to mitigate the impact of Brexit on labour supply. Just last month we unveiled a new ‘Training Hub’ in the West Midlands which will help to develop the next generation of skilled tradespeople starting out in housebuilding. The NHBC Training Hub in Tamworth has been built in partnership with Redrow Homes and Tamworth Borough Council, with input from an industry working group.
The Hub, which will be able to support more than 100 apprentices annually, is the first of its kind in the sector; offering a unique, purpose-built facility that will immerse apprentices in a real-life working environment. Bricklaying has been chosen as the initial focus for the Training Hub due to the shortage of skilled bricklayers in the house building sector.
Additionally, we welcomed hundreds of delegates online for the 30th anniversary of our Building for Tomorrow (Bft) event, held in March. We had 30 high profile industry expert speakers delivering over 40 hours of highly relevant content all of which is available to those who have registered for the rest of this year. Registrations are welcome at any time during 2021!
We are also approaching the first year anniversary of the launch of NHBC Accepts – a comprehensive new review service for innovative construction products and systems. The launch of the Pride in the Job Awards 2021, often referred to as the ‘Oscars of the industry’ is fast approaching too after the success of last year’s virtual events, with the first stage winners of the Quality Awards elements to be announced very soon, with further stage winners to be announced from September onwards.
All in all as an organisation we have been able to deliver a number of significant achievements despite the pandemic, thanks to the commitment of the dedicated teams throughout the organisation.
The latest edition of the NHBC Standards 2021 has recently been released, what has changed?
The new NHBC Standards are effective for every new home covered by an NHBC warranty, where foundations begin on or after 1 January 2021. Our dedicated standards team spent 2020 developing fresh technical content and updates to form the new Standards, working with stakeholders from across the industry.
Updates to the new version include a full review of Chapter 7.1 ‘Flat Roofs, Terraces and Balconies’, to reflect its extended scope which now includes terraces and podiums; updates to Chapter 6.1 ‘External Masonry Walls’ to reflect requirement changes; and a technical update to Chapter 10.2 ‘Drives, Paths and Landscaping’.
We are confident that these updates are enhancing the existing Standards, providing additional support and guidance, and are helping builders and developers to deliver the highest possible new home standards for the benefit of people living in them.
How important is sustainability for the future of the built environment?
It is a critical issue and undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of a generation. We are committed to supporting the Government’s ambition to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. With a proven track record of supporting house builders and developers on sustainability and environmental matters, we are ready to help the industry meet the requirements of the Future Homes Standard.
This may well cause some short-term disruption, but the long-term gains are compelling, especially when viewed through consumer and reputational lenses. This is fundamental to our future success and to the credibility of the industry: solving problems together has more appeal than having regulations imposed by the government.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the house building industry?
Sustainability is a major challenge of course, however UK construction has battled with a skills shortage for many years, so it is no surprise that this remains a key concern. We need to encourage more new, younger people into the industry – our Training Hub being a case in point.
Even before the UK’s exit from the EU and the pandemic this was a key issue. Collectively we need to work even harder as an industry to help meet this challenge. As ever, construction quality is central to everything NHBC does and looking ahead we will remain committed to working with the sector to help improve new home quality for the benefit of consumers.
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Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Showhome Magazine
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922