Farmer Review author speaks to UK trussed rafter sector

3 March 2017

The current surge of interest in innovative offsite housing technologies should not be seen as a threat to the established trussed rafter sector, the author of the influential Farmer Review has told the Trussed Rafter Association (TRA) AGM.

Mark Farmer, who penned the Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model: Modernise or Die last year for the government, joined speakers from Barratt Developments and the NHBC at the conference and AGM near Nuneaton on Thursday.

Mr Farmer, who’s Review recommended a bigger move to offsite construction technologies to meet future demand for UK housing and who coined the phrase “pre-manufactured”, told assembled TRA members: “It should not be seen as a threat to people in this room.”

He said the housebuilding industry was seeking to grow capacity, with existing construction methods like trussed rafters very much part of the equation and by their nature already in the pre-manufactured category.

“I do not think we have to decouple new things from what is already being done in the industry. It’s both.”

However, he encouraged TRA members to look at further aspects of pre-manufacturing, such as roof and floor cassettes and to engage with roof covering suppliers and others to help integrate various roofing aspects to provide a more complete pre-manufactured solution.

“What are your customers looking for in the future?”

Meanwhile, TRA chairman Jonathan Fellingham told members that market share had been lost to panelised roof systems, with construction sector skills shortages proving an issue.

Speaker Oliver Novakovic, technical and innovation director at Barratt Developments, said there had been a spike in timber frame interest and its target was for 20% of its homes to be manufactured off-site, though advanced/closed panel systems including cross-laminated timber (CLT) were currently too expensive for it to consider in low-rise construction.

When asked if housebuilders would revert to their masonry mainstay in the event of a housing market recession, Mr Novakovic predicted another 2-4 years of “good times” ahead and said if off-site system development continued, users would stick with the methods because they would be so good.

“It’s not about us saying let’s have these systems for a bit of fun. We’re in it for the long-term future,” he added.

Other news at the TRA AGM was the appointment of Liz Male Consulting as the organisation’s new PR company, the development of a new website over the coming months, a new installation guide for clients and plans for TRA/Structural Timber Association labelling of spandrel panels.

Delegates at the TRA AGM on Thursday March 2