The Housing Market - What's new from the Foundations Industry?
The housing industry is buoyant as pressure to build more homes is constantly rising. The governments says that 250,000 new homes are needed to be built each year in order to keep up with the rate of population growth. Last year only 200,000 new homes were built. If the construction industry remains unable to fulfill the 250,000 home quota in the years to come the UK will continue to suffer from inflating house prices as demand for property outweighs supply.
With the demand for new homes unlikely to abate any time soon, ASUC has launched a number of initiatives to meet the need for excellence in foundations:
- A new category of ASUC membership for Engineered Foundation Solutions specialists.
- A Foundation Insurance Guarantee (FIG) aimed at developers to cover the first two years life of any house foundation – years 8-10 being covered by the relevant warranty provider.
- A call to industry to reduce the depth for an Engineered Foundation from the current 2.5m to 1.5m.
- The need for competent foundations’ contractors to be available to the industry, which is under pressure to deliver more and quickly.
The reason ASUC has launched the initiatives above are as follows:
- Accidents and fatalities in traditional trench fill foundations are still far too high. ASUC is advocating an engineered foundation to reduce the depth and with it the risk.
- The HSE updated CDM regulations in 2015 – but the scope and impact of these responsibilities has still to be recognised in many quarters.
- Generally the first two years of a property are covered by the builder/developer (unless they cease trading) and this puts additional strain on balance sheets in the light of any claims for foundations. This is where the Foundations Guarantee can step in.
- Recent press regarding the vulnerability of large contractors, such as Carillion, shows just how fragile a balance sheet can become in a very short period of time for an industry that operates on wafer thin margins.
- Whilst House builders currently enjoy profitability and growth in a cyclical environment we know this will not last indefinitely - thus any additional safeguards should be welcomed by the house building industry.
- The main warranty providers are having their markets attacked by new entrants to the market – not a bad thing you might say, provided they are insured in sound markets.
How do we solve these issues?
- ASUC contractors can provide cost effective piled foundations at depths of 1.5m, these will come with a FIG warranty.
- Insist on installation by specialist, competent contractors. ASUC is seeking UKAS accreditation for its members’ audits and procedures.
- Some warranty providers have agreed to look at reducing their premiums to new housebuilders in the light of the FIG warranty as their risk exposure is less.
- There are a number of accepted solutions for foundations near trees that often lead to deep excavations, these can have an impact on Health and Safety and engineered foundations can offer a more robust and safe solution in these scenarios. Builders, developers and designers should all be aware of their obligations and responsibilities with respect to CDM regulations.
Who are ASUC?
ASUC is the only association representing specialist contractors in domestic: underpinning and subsidence repair techniques, engineered foundations and retrofit basements. The latent defects insurance can cover all the works carried out under contract at a property - not just the subsidence repair. Members of ASUC offer an extended range of foundation solutions, including new build, basements and other forms of subsidence repairs.
Members of ASUC are subject to annual health and safety reviews, are audited for technical expertise by an independent assessor, are monitored for financial probity and all share the common goals of setting the benchmark for standards within the industry, to lead in providing innovative solutions and maintain skills levels through education and training.
Please Note: Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. However, for the most up to date LABC Warranty technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the LABC Warranty technical manual.