Readers’ comments | CIOB CEO retires, platforms, offsite housing

2 January 2019

The Hadrian X bricklaying machine built its first house in under three days

'Google-style construction revolution' from platforms approach

CM 27/11 

About time, too. In the late 1990s I tried to persuade Mowlem (Manchester) to use Ytong (now part of Xella) to use large module aerated blocks in large warehouse construction for diaphragm walls. Their use is widespread throughout the world but I’ve not seen them in the UK. Perhaps someone might pick this up and run with it?

David McCormick

Lots of factory workers instead of skilled and proud tradespeople. Lots more estates of near-identical boxes, instead of inspiring and beautiful architecture.

We already have modular building methods in the form of timber kit. No need to think outside the box, we just need well-trained, well-paid people to do the work. Spend the money on training like the old TOPS courses and nationalise all public building projects.

Andrew Hall

This kind of deskilling ideology has been going on for at least 20 years and the result is an industry that cannot build a simple one-bedroomed dwelling without multiple snags and breaches of regs.


Prototype offsite house can be built in a single day

CM 29/11

Though this concept is a great idea why should it only be used for student accommodation and emergency shelter. It seems to me that the creators of module homes deem their products only worthy of those in desperate need.

In China they build modular homes and ship them to us for a fraction of the cost instead of us building a better quality home. Is that where the industry is going?

Benjamin Sewell

Steel framing for domestic housing is completely unnecessary. Tmber would cut the cost and do the same job structurally.


“A design life of at least 60 years”. Is this when DIYers discover they cannot do anything to improve their homes or before? A bit like us amateur mechanics discovered with our computerised cars. Perhaps the plan is to disassemble the homes at 60 years and replace them with a new model.

John Broomfield

Robot bricklayer builds first house

CM 15/11

For a traditional wall cavity, how would it deal with wall ties and insulation?


Network Rail is trialling similar technology with the University of Birmingham.


Andrew, there are two choices with what you say. Firstly, you have a human doing the complex work with accessories (no one said the technology does away with people). Or you redesign so wall ties are no longer needed and the insulation is elsewhere.

Anyway, the technology will have limits, like restricted access for the vehicle, and limits on complexity it can cope with (lintels, anyone?). It wouldn’t do away with bricklaying as a skill, just compensate for the shortage of skilled tradesmen.


CIOB chief executive announces retirement

CM 29/11

Chris, you came in like a breath of fresh air, both modernising and rescuing the CIOB from the ignominious fate that many other professional bodies of that era suffered. Your tenure has been good for the organisation, increasing both awareness and quality of the CIOB designation. I wish you well in your retirement.

Adrian Cox

Well done Chris. We haven't always agreed, we don't need to, but we both want the same thing – a changed, transformed and world-class industry.

John Eynon

Chris Blythe has done an excellent job. Who will be the next for the challenging position?

Raja Pillai

London super sewer costs under pressure

CM 26/11

Project contingency is there to be spent. The idea is that when planning all you know is some things won’t go to plan, but you don’t know exactly which things.

So you allow contingency. It acts to aggregate allowances of money and time to protect against risk and uncertainties and is vital on projects. If contingency is largely unspent, or if projects claim they don’t have any, something is wrong.

If most of the work is now well under way, this means that most of the potential risks have emerged, so having spent 80% of the contingency is not a problem. The problem arises when contingency is used very early, and none remains to protect the later stages of the project.

The key piece of information is how much contingency remains unallocated to protect the remaining four to five years.

Ian Heptinstall


Adrian Cox sums it very well - very best of British for your retirement Chris.
With kindest wishes.

Mike Isaac Mogul, 3 January 2019

Every best wish to you Chris on your retirement.
You can bask in the knowledge of a job well done....which makes me wonder whether this "retirement" will last long?? No doubt you will throw yourself soon into another challenge! Good luck....enjoy,
Best Regards Marjorie

Marjorie Brooker, 9 January 2019

Post 1 of 2:

Andrew Hall:

I have seen many trades-people on residential build sites that are neither proud-nor skilled; go learn how to snag a house properly and then tell me how you can be proud of that end-product. New couples and families that move into their first dream-home; the biggest expense and commitment in their entire life have to spend 12 months fighting with a site-manager to have just the defects put right. I’ve snagged ‘SOLD’ £700k luxury homes and come out with a list of 192-defects.

Modular build doesn’t mean standardised design and repetition of boxes; every house through a production facility can be unique, triangular, have curves or be a box like the majority of buildings. Just like a car production line, one car may be a Jaguar XF, the next a Jaguar XJ, ever one is unique.

And timber frame isn’t the way forward either.

Benjamin Sewell:

Have you ever seen a timber house transported and loaded onto/off a lorry? You may as well have tumbled it down a set of giant stairs. Light-weight steel-frame houses can be loaded, unloaded, built, deconstructed and moved… 6-times, and not a single crack appears. Plus steel-frame houses are getting 100-year warranties, A light-weight steel frame section is comparably lighter than timber; steel doesn’t shrink like wood, warp, twist, bow, split of have knots. Steel does not rot, promote mould or mildew and is impermeable to termites, vermin and insects.

The Healthy House Institute recommends steel for good indoor air quality; chemically sensitive homeowners and those susceptible to asthma are exposed to fewer toxins in a steel-framed home and there's no off-gassing from resins, adhesives, glues, or chemicals normally used for wood preservation/construction.

Jon Baker, 24 January 2019

Post 2 of 2:


There’s a lot more to a house than meets the eye, and different factors determine a properties lifespan. Maintenance is the most important factor; and for a traditional house:

“You should put aside about one percent of the buildings value every year to ensure you can afford to renovate the property every 30 years”

(£180,000 home; 1% is £1,800/year - over 30 years? That's £54,000.)

The life expectancy of a buildings “vital” organs is varied: kitchens, bathroom appliances, paintwork and floor coverings last between 10-15 years; pipes, windows and flat roofs 30 years and the basic structure (concrete or bricks) – the actual shell – 70 – 100 years.

Construction nowadays is more forward-looking than it used to be, says Peter Richner, Deputy Director of EMPA Materials Science and Technology (Empa). He is responsible for the “NEST” 3 project, a modular research and innovation centre for testing new technologies, materials and systems.

“An important component of longevity is a building’s adaptability”, he says, “it should be easy to change the room layout”. For example, preferences regarding kitchens and bathrooms have changed a lot over the past 30 years. However, it is difficult to make the required changes to 30-year-old traditional building so they often have to be knocked down. Modular buildings today are designed so they can adapt to meet future requirements.

Bought a two bedroom detached modular house and in 15 years you and your partner have 2 children and need to move in a market that’s increased in value by 10%? Well no, actually, just pay £1000 for a crane to come out and lift off your top floor like taking the top slice of bread from your sandwich and lift an extra floor in before replacing the original top floor. Takes less than a day!

You now have a triple-decker at a much reduced cost; no changing schools, jobs, moving to a poorer area because of house prices, no redecorating, replacing all your furniture and appliances.

The future of construction is much more dynamic than most members of the public, in fact most construction contractors will ever realise until it’s here and you all love them.

Plus there’s the fact you can move into your house and it’s perfect. From the day you entered the modular housing showroom, slipped on your VR headset and customised your kitchen, bathroom, paint colours, sockets and switches, light placements, window styles, even the style of your bricks – in 2 days’ time from walking out of there you’ll be collecting your new home keys and moving in.

Heck, want to see what the latest designer trends are in Japan, or America? Click the little Japanese flag in the corner of your VR screen and pick Japanese style kitchens, furniture and designs.

You’re new home will not only be free from defects but it’s completely your own design.

That’s exciting to me.

Jon Baker, 24 January 2019

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