Time to adopt offsite modular construction to overcome housing crisis in the UK
With the UK government releasing the Whitepaper on housing, the focus is on speeding up the delivery of quality homes as the gap between the demand and supply is widening with thousands of families remaining out of the housing network.
As the government and stakeholders concerned explore different avenues to bridge the gap, the role of the private sector is also critical. Several developers have come up with innovative models to provide housing at an affordable cost. An important component to help overcome the housing crisis is exploring alternative construction technologies, such as modular homes or prefabricated homes.
Modular homes have a promising future in the UK given the advantages they offer. The Whitepaper has clearly spelt out the Government’s support for modular housing – “We set out how we will support housing associations to build more, explore options to encourage local authorities to build again, encourage institutional investment in the private rented sector and promote more modular and factory built homes.”
In fact, several modular housing initiatives are already in progress in the Government as well as the private sector. A private developer, in partnership with the London Borough of Greenwich, is developing 249 apartments using offsite modular construction technology. A quarter of these homes will be available for discounted market rents. Other Boroughs could adopt similar strategies to bring more houses into the market in quick time.
The offsite modular construction technology offers multiple advantages – they reduce the cost of homes and the delivery time by 30 percent! Consequently, the overall completion schedule of a project will be reduced by 30 per cent to 50 per cent if greater control is exerted over implementation. In the process, there is a reduced interest on construction financing, thereby lessening the burden on the Boroughs. It will also provide for better hold over the engineering standards of houses.
There are several long-term benefits from offsite modular construction, such as reduction of waste (environment-friendly approach) and minimum disturbance on site. Homes built using this construction technology are healthier, as the risk of moulds and mildews are less, given the materials used. Likewise, there is ample scope and flexibility to further expand the project unlike in conventional construction technology.
The government intends to build over 100,000 modular/prefabricated homes across the UK. A portion of the Government’s £3bn Home Building Fund (2016) is earmarked for modular housing. Also, the Government is convincing lenders, who are risk-averse and unwilling to fund firms making prefabricated homes, to help finance their projects. The biggest of all support for modular homes is coming from the political community.
Strawberry Star, which believes in innovation in housing, supports modular/prefabricated homes as the way forward for the UK residential sector. Such initiatives, coupled with Government support, can ensure housing for all.