Industry News

Scotland Secretary of State David Mundell MP strengthens links with builders merchants

On 6 April 2016 the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP, visited Dumfries Timber Company Group to discuss the role of builders merchants in the construction supply chain and the wider economy.  

Mr Mundell heard how builders, plumbers and timber merchants supply everyday trade essentials and value-added products to both trade and retail customers.

The visit was facilitated by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF), which represents 510 companies with 4500 outlets, employing over 95,000 people across the UK, 

Dumfries Timber Company Group is an independently owned group of businesses selling a full range of building materials. Later this year they will be opening a brand new home improvement centre in the town which includes a 3,000 square foot kitchens and fitted bedroom showroom.

During the visit Mr Mundell met with staff and discussed careers in construction generally, and merchanting in particular.  He heard about recent initiatives to take on more apprenticeships and attract young people into the industry.  

The Secretary of State, the Rt. Hon David Mundell MP said:“Builders merchants are the lifeblood of the building industry. I am always pleased to celebrate business success in my part of the world, and I am delighted to support Dumfries Timber Company Group who play a key role in the construction supply chain across South West Scotland”.

Donald Young, Managing Director of Dumfries Timber Company Group commented: “Just 9 years ago, Dumfries Timber Company Group was a fledgling business with just 6 employees. We now employ 42 people at 3 sites, and have a turnover of £8 million.  Dumfries is our home town, and we will continue to invest in the area. We look forward to welcoming new customers to our new showroom in the coming months.”

Brett Amphlett, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the BMF added: “Builders merchants represent 10% of the total construction output in the UK, and local merchants such as Dumfries Timber Company Group play a huge part in local economies, for example by providing employment and offering credit to local builders. The BMF is delighted that the Minister has recognised the importance of our sector in his visit today.”


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Barratt Homes plans to expand timber frame houses offer

Barratt Homes, one of Britain’s leading house builders, is seeking to increase efficiency of housing delivery through greater use of timber frame.

In the announcement of half-yearly results for the six months ended 31st December 2015, Chief Executive David Thomas said: “Whilst we have seen an increase in the supply of skilled subcontractors over the past year, there remains an industry shortage in the UK, with increases in labour costs remaining the largest driver of overall build cost inflation. We are well placed with the necessary labour to meet our operational and quality requirements. We are also seeking to increase efficiency through the use of timber frame on around 6% of our plots during FY16 and through the use of alternative off-site manufacturing options, including closed panel roof solutions.”

For more information click here [see page 6 of the financial results].


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Scottish Government allocates £50M fund to build thousands of affordable homes

The Scottish Government has announced a new £50 million infrastructure fund aimed to speed up construction of thousands of new affordable and private homes.

The flexible grant and loan fund is designed to unlock strategic housing sites of importance to local authorities boosting the scale of housing delivery in Scotland.

In this framework, the Scottish Government’s has also committed to a five-year plan to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes, 70 per cent for social rent, backed by investment of over £3 billion. New financing mechanisms are also being explored to expand mid-market rent developments.

During a visit to Clyde Valley Housing Association’s new development in Kilsyth, Scottish Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil said: “Today's announcement underlines this Government’s determination to increase the pace and scale of development to deliver more homes across all tenures. The £50 million infrastructure fund will help unblock sites that are strategically important to councils and that have the potential to accelerate the delivery of thousands of new homes across the country."

“To make that happen we will team up with public and private sector bodies to tackle complex development, financing, infrastructure and planning issues impeding housing supply. We are puttng in place measures to support the increase in the supply of homes across all tenures, support jobs in the construction industry, and encourage inclusive growth in the wider economy", Mr. Neil added.

WikiHouse movement could help UK fix its housing crisis

According to a growing number of experts, WikiHouse could revolutionise the construction industry, helping the UK tackle its endemic housing crisis.

Born as an open source building system, WikiHouse movement is focused on building an online database of timber frame building designs, which developers or individuals can download for free.

The prototype UK WikiHouse project, WikiHouse 4.0, was built at the Building Centre in London in 2014 featuring a design by Arup and Alistair Parvin of Zero Zero Architects, with a frame made of SmartPly OSB3.

"The Government has pledged to build 400,000 homes over the life of this Parliament and there is currently little sign of that being delivered", underlined Mike Harrison, Marketing Magaer at Coillte Panel Products, a company specialised in SmartPly Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and Medite Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) production. "There needs to be alternative visionary on how this will happen and WikiHouse is one route that needs to be taken more seriously. As part of an affordable answer to the problem, OSB can provide a cost-effective construction solution which also has a credible sustainability story behind it, in the case of SmartPly OSB3 offering full FSC accreditation."

Allegedly, WikiHouse could reduce build costs by up to two-thirds, which is why housing associations have begun to take a keen interest faced with a reduction in rent income as Right to Buy is extended. South Yorkshire Housing Association is one of the first to take it forward with a plan to build a pilot home in the village of Darnall, again to a design by Alastair Parvin. The housing association is looking to construct it for around £50,000.

Positive Q4 for builders merchants sales: timber products up by 3.1%

According to the latest figures from GfK's Builders Merchants Panel, released by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF), sector sales in Q4 2015 were 3% ahead of the same period last year, with sales ex-VAT of £1.21bn. 

Remarkably, heavy Building Materials (which account for 46% of sales through general builders merchants annually) were up by 2.9%, while Timber and Joinery Products (which account for 21% of annual sales) were up by 3.1%.  

Commenting on the figures, BMF MD John Newcomb said: “We have reached another landmark. GfK’s Builders Merchants Panel started in July 2014 and we now have 18 months of data. The Q4 2015 results complete our first full calendar year. We can clearly see an upward sales trend emerging year on year. Although the seasonality of the building year is reflected in the latest figures, Q4 continued the trend of growing faster year on year than the UK average level of 2.4% and also out performed retail volume growth of 2.6%.”

Mr. Newcomb added: “2016 has started well and, despite concerns over the global economy and the prospects of an in-or-out EU referendum, the CPA is forecasting growth driven by housebuilding and infrastructure. On balance, builders merchants are likely to be as busy in 2016 as they were in 2015.”