We all know, or should do, that there is currently a housing crisis. We don’t have enough housing available for the people who need it.
This has various undesirable results such as:
- The spiralling cost of existing housing
- Less incentive for landlords to carry out improvements to housing and
- More people on the street.
- Housing construction costs in the UK are one of the highest in the world
- We do not have enough skilled construction workers and
- This is only going to get worse if Brexit prevents immigrant workers
Could modular house building construction techniques be the answer? But first:
What are modular houses?
This is where instead of being constructed on site, buildings are manufactured in a factory, transported to the site and then the various parts are slotted together to create the building.
There are a number of advantages to this:
- It is a lot quicker
- There is less disruption on site
- The modules can be constructed to a high standard
- They are often more environmentally friendly, and
- Fewer skilled construction workers are required
Most people when thinking of modular houses tend to think of the ‘prefab’ houses that were erected just after the war. However modern modular houses are quite different – and they are constructed to a higher standard (although many of the old prefabs lasted much longer than anyone expected).
The larger modular housing developments seem to be mostly blocks of housing, including tower blocks, rather than individual homes. Although it can be used for individual homes – for example the houses completed last year in Islington by Urban Splash.
Modular house construction is nothing new, witness this Grand Designs program from 2004. But then it was comparatively rare – in this country anyway. But this may now be changing.
Are modular house construction techniques the answer?
Possibly. People do seem to be getting very excited about it.
For example, insurance giant Legal & General is financing a new factory near Leeds to manufacture modular houses and I understand from an article in Property Industry News that a Chinese company and a UK Housing Association are collaborating to create several more.
Modular housing is also supported by the government who mentioned it (albeit largely obliquely) in their recent White Paper.
At the moment looks as if modular housing will be mostly used for building social housing by housing associations and by companies to construct student housing (for example Apex House in Wembley which will deliver some 560 student units).
Modular housing techniques are also starting to be used to create ‘pop-up’ temporary accommodation for homeless people, for example, this development in Ladywell in South London
So yes, it looks as if it will be at least part of the answer and I suspect modular housing building techniques will become more important. I think it is very exciting.
But, as always with these things, we will have to wait and see how effective it really turns out to be in solving our current problems.