Examination of Witnesses(Questions 340-352)|
WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2002
340. Is that not one of the problems with the
construction industry particularly now as we are down to more
and more subcontracting and there is less and less supervision
of what goes on because it does seem like there is an awful lot
of risk and, however well designed they are in theory, in practice
on the ground they may not actually be assembled properly?
(Mr Miles) Yes, absolutely right and therefore the
rational response to that is to recognise it as a problem and
to minimise that which is left on-site and to try and supervise
that which is left on-site to the best possible extent.
341. And you will do the supervision as a firm?
(Mr Blanshard) We would offer the client the total
(Mr Miles) May I just make it clear that Yorkon are
here as a producer. I am here as a designer and also as a member
of the Housing Forum, so I have more of a pan-industry view than
a particular quadrant and my colleagues can answer that question.
342. I am very concerned about what you have
described which sounds like a crisis of intermediate skills in
the construction industry. Why do you think this has happened?
(Mr Miles) Because it has not been at all fashionable
to become a skilled apprentice over the last 20 years and there
has been nothing done that has been of material benefit to right
that. It just is not fashionable for kids to leave school and
become an apprentice and it has not been for a long time.
343. May I suggest that it is not the fashion
to train the apprentices. There are hundreds of kids in my constituency
who would rather like the chance to become an apprentice.
(Mr Miles) Maybe they would now but I do not think
they did 15 years ago when this problem first started because
it was becoming very attractive to do other things.
Chairman: I do not think we want to have too
long a discussion.
344. Do you see this method of construction
actually providing homes in the private sector?
(Mr Miles) Absolutely. It has to.
345. Have you done any?
(Mr Blanshard) We have not, we have only done them
for housing associations, but I definitely see that.
(Mr Miles) I know of several builders who are active
in pursuing these systems now.
346. Actively pursing, but actually using?
(Mr Miles) Yes, beginning to develop new systems that
are what I would call generation two systems specifically designed
347. Could you give us some information about
that because it seems that these sort of systems end up as social
housing because nobody else will actually pay for them.
(Mr Miles) Let me right that. The industry interest
is across the board and, when I spoke of 150,000 houses a year
or north of that number in future, it is about 20,000 for social
housing and, if you do not deal with the balance of 130,000, then
you are not dealing with the issue, so you have to, and we as
a nation have to, address that much bigger section which is the
private build and these pressures of strangulation, increased
standards and customer demand affect the private build sector
as much as they do the social build.
348. Finally, if you are going to build them
in the factory, what happens when something goes wrong five years
down the line? Is the local plumber going to be flummoxed when
he comes to actually try and sort it out and will he say, "I
cannot get those parts, I cannot do that"? Is there a scope
for you offering a service package whereby you go on servicing
the units for the next 20 years?
(Mr Blanshard) We do have service vehicles around
but the idea is that we would have local people being able and
trained to do that. Can I just remind you that we are not changing
materials. A plumber can still take a radiator off
349. You were just speaking of the virtues of
a big panel of plasterboard. That makes a lot of difference to
the way construction is going to take place, does it not? If you
have a big piece of plasterboard, it is going to be very different
to having smaller pieces. Are you going to say that, once it gets
in the dwelling, it is going to get cut up into little pieces?
(Mr Blanshard) No, once it gets in the dwelling, it
gets fixed to the wall and I do not need a plasterer to plaster
(Mr Miles) From a repair point of view, it is no different
to drill a hole in a big piece of plasterboard or a small piece
of plasterboard. That is the point. So the repair of systems subsequently
does not require any new skills. It is the assembly of the systems
in the first place that is addressed by off-site manufacture.
Mr O'Brien: Mr Blanshard, in your written submission,
you list a number of awards that you have achieved, but there
is nothing there about energy efficiency. A number of the tenants
and people in properties and the Government too are pressing for
energy efficiency. Why do you have no awards for energy efficiency?
350. And can we add sound.
(Mr Blanshard) On the question of efficiencies, the
way that the modules are made are really insulated individual
rooms and we end up with higher insulation levels than the actual
building regulations and we were not nervous when the Government
were trying to lift the insulation levels because we were already
there, it was only the masonry world out there who became suddenly
nervous. Coming back to the awards for energy efficiency, what
we have done is that instead of an engineer producing a document
with us with lots of stat ratings and new values and all this
sort of thing which really the man in the street does not understand,
what we really need to do is ask, is this thing going to do 50
miles to the gallon or is it going to do 100 miles to the gallon?
What we are doing is actually monitoring electricity bills. What
people are telling me from the block in Hackney is that it hardly
costs anything to run their flat. So, we now have permission to
collect their electricity bills and produce some really strong
data from two or three winters and summers.
351. How do they heat water?
(Mr Blanshard) By electricity.
352. That has been a very helpful short session
for us and I thank you very much for coming to the Committee this
(Mr Blanshard) Thank you for your interest.