Report calls for more modular construction in UK housing market

A new report is calling for the increased use of modular construction in the UK housing market, in a bid to meet new homes targets.

The Deploying Modular Housing in the UK report urges the government and housebuilders to come together to accelerate the use of modular construction.

The joint report from Places for People and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research, calls for government support – both through grants and subsidies for developers using modular technologies, and through planning policy incentives.

It also recommends industry standards and warranties akin to traditional builds to provide certainty and confidence for housebuilders, end users and traditional lenders who are sometimes cautious of loaning on modular homes.

The report says that systematic data capture and evidence collection by housebuilders to create a strong evidence base of the benefits of offsite housing construction and MMC would help to combat customers’ mistrust, overcome risk aversion, and boost confidence among lenders.

Scott Black, group executive director – development at Places for People, said: “There are so many potential benefits to creating homes using modular technologies, but there are a host of current barriers and constraints that need addressing.

“Issues such as regulatory and approval barriers, skills shortages in the factories and a lack of cross-sector support are hindering the growth of modular construction – slowing down the take up. As an industry, we have the vision and the capabilities, but we need to pull together to address the barriers outlined in this report, and pave the way for a sustainable, modular future, one underpinned by an adequately skilled workforce who can drive the technology forward – helping establish it as a credible building practice for future consumers.”

The 34-page report also addresses the skills shortage in the UK sector.

“Another important factor is the need for investment in the development of a different set of skills than those used on traditional sites,” explained co-author Gemma Burgess, who is director of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research at The University of Cambridge.

“This can be achieved by equipping the industry’s labour force with the necessary tools – including digital literacy and the use of new software and knowledge in offsite manufacture. This will all go hand in hand with retraining schemes and education programmes in collaboration with national and local government, education providers, industry bodies and the housebuilding industry.”

The report also proposes the idea of ‘innovation champions’  – individuals and companies – among housebuilders and developers, who actively use modular and offsite approaches and MMC, in order to boost their efforts and promote the benefits of innovation.

Other recommendations include proposals for the standardisation of materials and having a ‘kit of parts’ to be used across the industry by different manufacturers.

This will come through collaboration said Black, adding: “The more we share, the more we will learn. There do however need to be initiatives to promote this within the housebuilding industry – the Building Better group (NHF 2020) for example. Such plans would provide structures for effective communication, synthesise learning, and help to build networks and collaboration opportunities.”


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