Merchants stand to lose as timber frame grows market share

Published:  13 November, 2012

LONDON: Prefabricated timber frame housing accounts for a growing proportion of UK house building. But factory made prefabricated houses with less material supply required to building sites could see merchants lose material sales.

Persimmon says it will build 3500 prefabricated timber frame houses this year. It acquired the Space4 timber frame factory at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham, as part of its takeover of a smaller rival, Westbury, in 2006. The factory sold more than 3250 timber-frame home kits last year, a 19% rise on the previous year, supplying just over a third of Persimmon's homes. The factory has capacity to manufacture more than 8,000 houses a year,.

Persimmon says a Space4 home is 50% more energy efficient than a traditional houseÊcosting almost half to heat.

Timber frames account for 25% of new housing in the UK, well below the world average of 70% of all new houses around the world. Timber frame suffered a bad press in the UK in the early 80s when Barratt, then Britain's largest house builder, abandoned timber-framed construction. Today, Taylor Wimpey's timber-frame division, Prestoplan, is still a small part of its business.

David Ritchie, chief executive of Bovis Homes, believes that a traditionally built "brick and block" home remains the preference of many British homebuyers. Nor is speed a benefit where build times are dictated by the availability of a customer with a mortgage, he says.

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