A lack of standards has been holding back take-up of modern construction methods. The Loss Prevention Standard for Innovative Dwellings – LPS2020 – should change all that

John Prescott’s visit to OFFSITE2003 was meant to be fleeting. “He was travelling back to Hull and was only going to stay for 10 minutes,” recalls Keith Ross, Director for Innovative Housing at BRE. “He ended up staying for two and a half hours.”

The attention of the Deputy Prime Minister was caught by the wide range of innovative building systems on display. Ross was impressed by Prescott’s enthusiasm. “He spoke at length to exhibitors and was interested to know what the government could do to encourage the off-site sector.”

Prescott was also curious to know why housing providers were slow to apply for government grants to build homes using off-site construction methods. “He wanted to know what the barriers were. He told BRE to consult with industry and come back with proposals.”

Prescott was taken at his word. The new Loss Prevention Standard for Innovative Dwellings (LPS2020) is the result of two years of industry consultation led by BRE. Expected to be up and running early next year, it tackles the reasons why innovative housing systems are not being adopted more quickly – namely a lack of standards and guidance covering innovative new methods of construction, and the need to reassure lenders and insurers about their durability and resilience.

In addition to meeting Building Regulations, current Technical Approvals require assurance of the factory production, transportation and storage. LPS2020 will go further.

To satisfy the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) and the Association of British Insurers (ABI), LPS2020 will assess that innovative construction methods meet certain resilience and durability standards. Common causes of insurance claims include wind and storm damage, burst pipes, fire in rooms, flood, subsidence and security. LPS2020 will assess the systems’ vulnerability to these risks and consider repairability of such damage.

LPS2020 will also check that innovations have a lifespan of at least 60 years. To overcome the lack of historic durability data on new systems, risk assessment models and accelerated ageing of components may be used to assess service life.

Guides for installers and users

Manufacturers will have to provide thorough instructions for installers. These will cover fire stopping, foundations and services, buildability, site-based issues, skills and training, and transportation and assembly. An installation checklist covering buildability and critical interfaces and on-site quality control procedures will also be produced.

End-user information required under LPS2020 includes details on repairability, adaptability and maintenance. This could potentially feature in the Home Information Pack due to be introduced in January 2007.

Manufacturers and builders can apply for further optional standards that set higher levels of performance in specific areas. These are Fire Performance – LPS2023, Enhanced Energy Performance LPS2024, Enhanced Security – LPS2025, and Enhanced Flood Resilience – LPS2026. LPS2027 will provide environmental profiling.

LPS2020 is now being calibrated by a number of manufacturers of innovative construction systems and an industry expert group comprising of ABI, CML, House Builders Federation and the National House Building Council (NHBC). This process will take up to eight months, and the standard should be operational by early 2006.

It is expected that a number of certifying bodies will use this standard, under a licence agreement with BRE certification, to take manufacturers’ systems through the certification process.

LPS2020 should go some way to reducing barriers to innovative methods of construction and alleviating the concerns of those reluctant to move away from tried-and-tested methods. It should facilitate the step change in housing provision required by the government.

Key aims of LPS2020

  • Offer reassurance on durability and resilience.

  • Provide manufactures will simple approval process.

  • Ensure control of manufacturing process.

  • Check buildability of innovation and provide inspectors with checklist.

  • Enable manufactures to demonstrate enhanced performance of systems.

  • Maintain database of approved systems.