Interview on the go with Chris Duckworth, managing director of SipBuild UK
Q. You specialise in structural insulated panel (SIPs)buildings why and what are they?
A. They are a thermally efficient, air-tight offsite construction method that is innovative and low-waste and demand is increasing as SIPs are now considered a mainstream form of construction. I chose to specialise in SIPs because we’d been looking for an offsite production product, we looked at timber frame then saw SIPs and thought It was a much better product.
Q. You set up SipBuild UK in 2012, how have the last five years been and what is your prediction for the next five years?
A. The last five years have been tumultuous, hectic, thriving and a massive learning curve, the next five years will be the same.
Q. We recently worked together to gain short listings in this year’s Build It Awards (we’re keeping our fingers crossed we win), how important is it to the growth of your business that you invest in activity like this?
It’s great to receive industry accolades because our customers can see they have made the right choice by selecting the best contractor in the country. It also acts as a statement of intent for the future as it shows we are driven by quality.
Q. There is a school of thought that says construction skills have been lost because of the financial crash which means the sector will face a skills shortage in the future. What’s your view?
Yes, there’s definitely a skills shortage.
Q. Do you think the rise in use of modern methods of construction, such as SIPs, is contributing to bridging this gap?
Offsite construction will help bridge the gap but it won’t completely close the gap. There are still a lot of bespoke sites purely because of the size, nature, or shape of a site, so if you’re looking for a buy to rent development of 1,000 units outside London you could consider modular.
But if you’re looking in London where the Greater London Authority has 100,000 sites designated for development, a lot of them smaller with difficult access or awkward shapes, which doesn’t suit modular, that’s where SIPs can fill the gap. And there are quality benefits to offsite construction methods, the automation of processes and copy, paste and click behaviour you can get out of a factory creates repetition which leads to a higher build quality.
Q. And what new skills are entering the sector because of MMC and investment by business such as SIP Build in apprenticeship programmes?
That’s the problem, there aren’t any new skills coming into the sector, existing apprenticeships don’t match the jobs, they don’t cover things like programming, robotics, automation, or packaging, they still focus on traditional roles like joinery. And it’s very difficult to get a joiner qualified working for an off-site manufacturer
Q. Starbucks, Waitrose, or Café Nero coffee?
Café Nero, mine’s an Americano with a drop of milk.