Ian Davis, director general at the Federation of Master Builders, is set to join the National House Building Council as its operations and executive board director. He speaks to Alasdair Reisner
This is not your first time at the NHBC. How long have you been away and why did you come back?
I've been away for nine years.
I suppose the obvious reason I returned was that they wanted me. But the other reason to come back was that they had approached me at a time when housing is a big issue.
The NHBC has always been at the leading edge when it comes to policy but I think it was looking to add someone to its board that had experience at a political level.
How has the NHBC changed in your time away?
It is a larger organisation in terms of staff and it offers a much broader range of services to meet the challenges that have been laid down by the Government recently.
What do you think these challenges are?
The key issue for the house building industry will always be political. The Government is demanding a huge increase in housing supply, which leads to planning issues.
Part of that agenda also assumes an increase in the use of Modern Methods of Construction. The NHBC can play a key role in ensuring that the methods used are sound, buildable and do not bring with them some of the problems we have seen in the past.
Are new homes built using off-site techniques any better than those built in the past?
In the past, prefabrication has been a dirty word. In the 1960s there were issues with some for the concrete frame homes built publicly then sold on into private hands. Where there were defects people were not able to get mortgages on the properties. The NHBC had a key role in trying to resolve those problems.
These days prefabrication is actually quite common and can encompass something traditional like timber framed houses, which are used on a lot of sites. In Scotland that represents more than half of the market. Steel framed homes are not as well established but they are out there. There is an awful lot that can be done on things like bathroom pods to cut down on work on sites.
How has the quality of houses generally changed in recent years?
Ten years ago if there had been a problem on a new build home it was probably technical - something wrong with the way it was built. Now the problems we see are more about customer satisfaction, such as snagging issues. As the industry gets better at building the customer gets more demanding. The NHBC has recognised this is important.
What do you make of the drive for sustainability in construction?
At industry level we have the code for sustainable homes.
The NHBC can inf luence the code to make sure that whatever is supported is both sustainable and backed up by science. An example of this might be windmills on houses.
There are questions over whether the amount of energy embedded in them is greater than the energy they save.