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Joe Bradbury explores the quality and speed that modern methods of construction offer

A new trade group for the modular industry has just recommended that the government give modular housing 20% of its affordable housing budget.

A report from Make UK Modular, the trade group for modular housing, claims that 20,000 low-energy houses could be built across the UK if the government supported modular building.

According to the analysis, these homes would cost 32% less to build and 55% less to heat than the typical brick family home.

Modular housebuilding is a modern solution for modern times.

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

A major shift

Forgive the loaded sentence, but most people are now in agreement that a new approach to creating residential homes based on Modern Methods of Construction will bring about a major shift in the way homes are created in the UK and that this will help alleviate the ongoing housing crisis currently gripping our nation.

We aren’t meeting the ever-increasing demand; we just can’t seem to build them fast enough... yet a home can be completely created quickly in a factory environment by utilising modern, high-spec modular building practices, and added straight to the UK residential market.

The construction process is much more rapid than traditional house-building methods, reducing time and labour expenses, whilst increasing efficiency and safeguarding the environment.

Because offsite modular home construction can take place concurrently with onsite and foundation work, projects can be finished up to three times faster than traditional techniques.

Weather delays are also avoided, because the majority of the construction is done in a factory setting. This provides developers with a far more precise build plan and lowers the chance of costly overruns.

It’s undeniable. We need offsite.

We need help from government

Greater incentives

A recent report entitled “The UK House Building: Manufacturing Affordable Quality Homes” urged the Government to provide greater incentives for the offsite construction of homes.

The report also calls for a reverse of policies which they feel discourage the construction of quality, sustainable housing.

The report suggests that greater efforts should be made to diversify the UK house building sector, such as opening up opportunities to self-builders, local authorities and housing associations.

Affordable, quality homes

Lead Author of the report and Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Dr Tim Fox said: “The UK is in the middle of an acute housing crisis. Current annual construction levels are typically less than half of the estimated 250,000 new homes this country needs built every year through to at least the 2030s.

“The Government needs to demonstrate real ambition, leadership and innovation, not make small piecemeal changes, if it is going to solve the UK’s housing crisis. Overhauling the way the UK constructs homes could be the quickest and most effective way of doing this.

“Offsite construction technologies have advanced greatly in recent years and can offer shorter build times, better quality, better energy efficiency, less waste, and lower costs for buyers.

“Government should also provide incentives to encourage self-builders, local authorities and housing associations to build more homes and introduce regulation to discourage builders from building small dwellings with poor energy efficiency and environmental performance.

“People living in the UK deserve affordable quality homes and it is about time that consumers had more say on the quality, design and size of their homes. Self-build is one very effective route to achieving this.”

The research urges the government to implement a comprehensive housing market reform programme targeted at developing the self-build sector, with the help of UK-based offsite manufacturers, to meet at least 50% of market demand (125,000 homes per year in England) by 2030.

In summary

Offsite construction provides a consistent level of performance with fewer construction faults and wasted materials. It provides a significant reduction in build time while significantly increasing build quality - in other words, a win-win situation!

The market is definitely showing higher levels of optimism towards offsite, with more positive signs of investment and an increase in activity levels. The transition to a low-carbon economy presents our industry with great opportunities for growth.

Environmental considerations will transform how our buildings and homes are constructed, what materials are used and the methods employed.

Regulatory hurdles aside, industry specialists believe that at some time, offsite components will increasingly be employed in favour of traditional site-based building methods.

Precision engineered homes, manufactured in factories in places where jobs are needed and shipped to parts of the UK where housing is in short supply, will revolutionise the industry and assist in addressing the country's mounting housing issue. It’s a modern solution for modern times.

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine