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New quality assurance scheme for new homes in the UK to be launched
A scheme is being launched in the UK to provide builders and developers of new homes a new way of measuring their durability and quality.

The Build Offsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) is being unveiled next week at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and is the first of its kind in the UK. It will independently verifying new homes as being fit to support long term loans and built using quality materials.

It has been jointly developed by Build offsite, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Lloyds Register, Building LifePlans (BLP), major UK Banks and in consultation with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Building Societies Association.

Under the scheme a durability and maintenance assessment will be carried out by BLP, process accreditation carried out by Lloyds Register and a web enabled database will provide valuers, lenders and surveyors, with details of housing units in the scheme. Details of accredited designers, manufacturers, constructors and building systems will also be included.

The scheme is being launched at a time when there is a pressing need for a substantial increase in the number of new homes being built in the UK and also when there is a desire to improve the energy efficiency of these homes in order to reduce the need for and the cost of heating.

In order to meet these challenges there will need to be a fundamental shift in house building practices including, in particular, an increase in the use of innovative and offsite construction methods to improve the performance of new homes.

Some experts believe that will mean that over time house building in the UK will transform from a predominantly site based activity to an activity that involves the on site assembly of factory made quality building components. This is how construction has been evolving to meet the quality and performance needs of other sectors of the industry.

This is one reason the new scheme has been launched, as factory manufactured components are new to many house builders and developers. It is felt that initially their use will be perceived as giving rise to uncertainty and risk.

However, traditional construction methods are also prone to risks including in particular those associated with poor workmanship and poor detailing. However, these risks have become part and parcel of the process of traditional house building in the UK and the industry has developed methods to manage that risk, usually involving demolition and reconstruction or simply making good the defective work.

In either case the outcome represents poor value in terms of sustainability and use of resources and the performance of the finished homes may fall well short of requirements.

At this stage the scheme is specifically targeted at manufacturers of off site construction components and assemblies and at constructors of new homes. However, the value of the scheme to eliminate construction and financial risk is likely to mean it will also be of interest to developers and RSL and local authority clients.
  
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