Can offsite-construction deliver the homes we want to buy?
Modular homes are coming to a street near you...
Modern methods of construction or MMC are rapidly gaining traction with the government. Using just-in-time production methods and factory-based techniques mean offsite, modular homes can be produced quickly to consistent quality; developers are no longer held to ransom by bad weather or on-site skills shortages.
Earlier this month, Housing Minister Esther McVey visited Legal & General?s modular housing factory in Sherburn. It?s the largest advanced manufacturing facility for modular homes in Europe and aims to produce 3,500 new homes a year. Houses are digitally-designed with the computer code feeding directly to the production floor, where the latest automation and assembly-line production techniques are being showcased.
The aim is to make MMC a large scale solution for every tenure: social housing, homeownership, and build to rent. The industrialisation of housing also makes it possible for modular homes to be designed around the needs of house buyers: safety requirements, environmental needs, and quality standards can all be taken on board. Economies of scale mean that the bigger the orders placed with modular businesses, the better they are able to plan ahead and price competitively.
But there could be a spanner in the works ? in the UK, housing is the one thing that many of us prefer to buy second hand. According to The Guardian, around three-quarters of us aren?t keen on new build homes. Key dislikes include small rooms, limited storage space, not enough natural light and too few flexible spaces for communal and private living or changes in the household over time.
This makes the design as well as build quality of new housing mission-critical, especially as the government is pledging 300,000 new homes every year by the mid-2020s. The conundrum for developers in the next few years will be not only how to build lots of new houses fast but also how to make them just as spacious, flexible and attractive as the older house down the road.
The key is likely to be in sustainability. L&G promises high quality, affordable homes that will also reduce living costs by delivering low or no energy bills. Even in a nation that loves its aging housing stock, that might just be a winning formula!
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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