Apr 05, 2017

New centre of excellence to support skills for offsite construction

A partnership between industry and academia has created a new centre of excellence for offsite construction skills and learning at our Witney factory. This blog explores what the project aims to deliver for the construction industry and its ability to exploit the significant benefits of timber frame.

The development of a new centre of excellence for offsite construction with timber systems at our Witney factory in Oxfordshire aims to address the triple threat to the UK’s new homes ambitions – shortages of materials, skills and quality new housing.

Stewart Milne Timber Systems, the UK’s leading timber systems designer and manufacturer, has joined forces with the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, Napier and Heriot-Watt Universities, and industry partners CCG Construction Group, to develop an offsite construction centre of excellence at our Oxfordshire manufacturing facility. This offsite construction hub will develop industry-focused and interactive training with the ambition of creating a highly skilled offsite construction workforce capable of supporting industry in significantly increasing the use of timber frame building methods across the country.

The centre includes a product gallery, conference centre, and learning centre which gives visitors the chance to visualise the construction process end to end, view training videos, interact with the latest technology and take part in simulations. It also includes a “training rig” to allow hands-on experience of the real-life process of timber system construction. 

The project is part of a wider national initiative, run by the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, which is looking at innovative ways to tackle the skills shortage in offsite construction.

Industry professionals from housebuilding, affordable housing providers, contractors, architects, technical and construction teams are encouraged to visit the centre and complete the Stewart Milne Timber Systems Competency Scheme, achieving different levels of certification depending on which aspect of training they complete.

Offsite construction systems using timber frame are more technically advanced due to the inherent quality assurance process of a factory environment and adoption of lean production principles. Bringing these advanced systems together on-site requires a new skill level.

The UK’s shortage of housing is well documented, but solving a challenging problem is made even harder by a persistent and chronic lack of skilled labour. Currently there are not enough people to build the new homes that people need. Realigning the industry around offsite construction based upon timber systems means the UK will be less constrained and less dependent on current trades skills.

The project is the beginning of an answer to this triple threat to the country’s housing ambitions, and having experts from industry and academia working together means we are in a strong position to deliver something meaningful for the good of the whole industry and the UK housing market.

If you want to know how timber can prepare your project for the future, get in touch.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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