Sixteen housebuilders, including Berkeley Homes and Redrow, and suppliers, including Jewson, have set up a business-to-business email billing system.
The scheme, called Ebuild-xml, allows participants to transmit invoices and purchasing orders electronically but does not involve an internet portal.

The service, set up and managed by non-profit-making body Business Application Software Developers Association, requires a PC and an internet connection.

Gareth Braithwaite, Wilson Bowden's group IT director and instigator of the scheme, said the system would reduce paper cost and speed up invoicing.

He said: "This is unbelievably simple and inexpensive. I believe there is no risk." The take-up of the project will begin with pilot schemes which have yet to be decided.

The housebuilders have been working with suppliers, BASDA and software companies on the system since December last year.