Delivering high quality, high margin homes: 5 ways technology can help

high margin homebuilding

By: Amanda Fennell, EMEA Head of Marketing, ACS; James Gall, Commercial Lead – Construction & House Builders, ACS; Michael Smith, Target Account Sales Executive, ACS

Homes are in high demand. It’s estimated that over the next 20 years the UK will need 3 million new properties just for social housing, let alone the private sector.

But it’s not an easy time for housebuilders. The Home Builders Federation noted that the number of customers reporting snags in new build properties rose to 99% in 2018, putting more focus than ever on quality.

Meanwhile, with labour shortages and the rising cost of materials, there’s significant pressure on company margins. Balancing the creation of homes that are high quality with achieving a healthy profit is no mean feat – especially when the volumes are large.

Technology can help housebuilders to increase their productivity, building faster and with more assurance. With the right tools, firms can continue on their journey to become (or remain) a five-star homebuilder, while protecting those critical margins. Here’s how.

1) Build right first time

Rework is one of the biggest drains on profitability for housebuilders. Half of the construction professionals surveyed in a recent report said that rework was the single biggest time drain on their projects. The time, materials and energy wasted on correcting mistakes quickly adds up.

Technology designed for the jobsite can help teams to build right first time. With PlanGrid, digital drawings can be accessed from mobile devices and tablets on-site. The cloud-based solution means that documents are updated automatically, so there’s no risk of following outdated plans.

Teams can even open rich Building Information Modelling (BIM) data on-site, with additional information like installation guides. And all of the information is accessible offline, so it’s available on sites with poor connectivity. Putting accurate information in the team’s hands helps them to avoid mistakes the first time round, improving the profitability of the job.

2) Boost productivity throughout the team

Every housebuilder wants to complete projects more efficiently, to hit schedules and maximise output. But problems with processes can hamper the whole on-site team. Admin can be a real burden for project managers, with a quarter stating it takes too much time. Meanwhile on the other side three tenths of workers are delayed waiting for information (28%).

Digital technology can help to address these pain points. With tools like PlanGrid, project managers can complete admin, such as producing snag lists much more quickly and often from the site. Eliminating paper drawings cuts the time – and cost – spent printing new versions every time changes are made, ensuring the team has up to date information at their fingertips.

It’s also possible to use PlanGrid to share standard processes within the business, setting out the most efficient way to complete work. That means that teams spend less time working out how to get the job done and more time doing it – boosting productivity at a time when employees are in short supply.

Read how a specialist subcontractor is creating standards to boost efficiency across the business

3) Cut down conflict

Normally multiple subcontractors are involved in every housebuilding project – and coordinating their efforts takes time and resource. Three tenths of firms say that just scheduling meetings is a key time drain for the business. Moreover, at a time when margins are tight, competing priorities can lead to tension or even disputes between different businesses.

Tools like PlanGrid make it much easier to collaborate with other firms. Collaborators can access the information that they need whenever they need it, to work more effectively. Queries or comments can be marked up directly onto drawings, for clearer communication.

Subcontractors can record their progress and access all project documentation from one place, to reduce the chance of disputes down the line – and create stronger relationships between firms.

4) Action every issue

As the figures from the Home Builders Federation show, homebuilders are facing a rising number of complaints about new build houses after close out has taken place. Call outs to fix these issues can represent a significant drain on the team’s time, when they might have moved on to other projects. Complaints can also cause significant reputational damage – and lessen the chance of a 5-star housebuilder rating.

Technology can help to ensure the highest quality finish, with tools like the advanced issues tracking on PlanGrid. Quality inspectors can tag issues directly onto digital drawings, with photos and comments. This can be particularly helpful on developments where properties are very similar.

The fix is assigned directly to a team member, who is notified of the issue and the deadline for fixing it. The quality inspector then gets confirmation once the repair is completed. Tools like PlanGrid significantly speed up the close out, while helping to ensure the highest level of quality.

5) Deliver high volumes of homes

Homebuilders are exploring innovative ways to deliver large volumes of homes, to meet high demand while ensuring a quality finish. Off-site manufacturing (OSM) is one option, which boosts the efficiency of the build by producing modules which are then simply installed and finished on-site.

But the methodology can be challenging, as it involves coordinating with manufacturers who may be some distance away and dealing with a high volume of similar modules and properties.

Technology like PlanGrid can help. The shared digital plans make it simpler to coordinate over large distances, while helping inspectors to complete quality checks at the factory. It’s also easier for the on-site team to identify properties when installing modules in situ. Construction technology can enable homebuilders to take advantage of OSM as a new way of completing homes.

Read about how Interserve used PlanGrid to support OSM at a £27m luxury development in Birmingham

High quality, high margin homebuilding

On-site technology can help homebuilders to increase their productivity, reduce errors and improve their collaboration. Digital tools help everyone in the team to build higher quality homes, faster – protecting those all-important margins.

With tools like PlanGrid, homebuilders can meet the growing housing demand – and keep both customers and shareholders happy.

Talk to the Autodesk Construction Solutions team to learn how technology can help you

Amanda Fennell

Amanda Fennell is Director of EMEA Marketing in Autodesk Construction Solutions and Autodesk Ireland Site Lead. She has over 20 year’s marketing experience in IT, including working with some leading cloud organisations. Amanda holds an MA in Communications and Cultural Studies from DCU and is based in Autodesk’s European headquarters in Dublin.