Is Simplicity the Solution? Ask The Expert

Since December 2020, the price of aluminium and steel has grown exponentially. The rise has had significant knock-on effects in the construction industry, which has been the brunt of decisions which prioritise other industries for these materials. This, coupled with a skilled labour shortage have led to the industry flat-line. 

Lee Goodenough discusses how the construction industry can collaborate to lessen the impact of skills and materials shortage through the simplicity of design.

The recent price rise of materials and the significant skills shortage in the industry is having a huge impact on construction. How can the industry combat this? 

The skills shortage has been felt for some time now and many feared the implications of Brexit on the labour market. Off-site manufacture and MMC provide many benefits, so even before these issues arose, these tools provided a way to mitigate the problem of skills shortage. For Sapphire, our innovation and simplification of balconies and balcony products reduces the need for labour onsite, a saving that passes benefits onto the customer. 

The lack of materials is impacting many businesses around the globe, yet priorities are often given to other industries. Why? 

There are many for geopolitical reasons for this. One was that, as we come out of the pandemic, the manufacture of white goods and cars will increase. These industries have a greater influence through their associations, which construction doesn’t have. Steps need to be made to create that single strong voice to protect everyone’s interests. 

The topic of competency is covered in The Hackitt Report. With the skills shortage facing the industry, how can we ensure a high level of competency and productivity?  

Problems of poor productivity, lack of materials and skilled labour can be solved with the adoption of the DFMA’s methodologies. Encouraging standardisation and early engagement with specialist contractors will lead to effective forecasting in use of materials, workload and help to overcome complex designs. 

Standardisation and simplicity of design have a reputation for being restrictive, but it also lends itself easily to rationalisation – learning from previous designs and applying improvements to future designs. These improvements can often mean a large saving, which can be passed on to the customer. Not only that, an architect’s design may only need a few adjustments to fit with a standardised product, allowing for unique features to remain in the design.  

What is Sapphire’s design approach to skills and materials shortage? 

Having an unlimited amount of designs to fit with any building comes with time, labour and cost implications. Early engagement is important to establish key principles from the start. Tools like COACH, our online configurator, enables architects to see the ramifications of different design choices in real time so they can make the best choices for their project.  

COACH allows architects to design balconies for their project faster than traditional approaches, while maintaining their unique vision. It offers choices on cost and design elements within buildable design parameters.  

Openness and preparedness to share best practice across construction will enable the industry to improve its practices as well as mitigate any further issues with skills and materials shortages in the future.  


About Lee Goodenough

Lee is Head of Sales and Commercial at Sapphire and looks after customers from the early tender stage to contract signing, with a keen eye on developing long-lasting relationships. Lee guides clients in finding the best balcony solutions for their requirements with an emphasis on building longevity and simplicity on site.