Our news & events

Modular Housing – the next piece of the puzzle?

Posted 06/09/2017

by Patrick McNamara

Share this article:

Prefab – a term mainly associated with post-war housebuilding (and not in a good way). Modular, on the other hand, sounds cutting edge, chic and ready to take on traditional construction methods.

However, even if modular housing is the cutting edge revamp of traditional prefab, it still faces some major challenges. Most notably, why would housebuilders want to use a more expensive process instead of traditional construction?

The answer to that question, traditionally, has been the speed of construction; a modular house can be constructed (offsite) at the same as foundations are being laid (on site), in some cases halving the overall build time (and in Pocket Living’s case, they can supposedly build 32 flats in 10 days). However, in the past housebuilders have wondered what’s the point? And quite rightly, why would a housebuilder build houses faster than they can sell them?

But now, in the midst of a housing crisis, things are different. The rate that houses can be sold has sped up, build-to-rent offers a longer-term model which many traditional housebuilders are embracing, and there is the political will to speed up housebuilding. It’s also crucial to note that modular construction costs are going down with innovations in automation.

However, while all this is good and well, there may be a different, bigger, hurdle to the rise of modular homes. A recent survey by City A.M found that 81% of Brits didn’t want to live in a new-build homes. If this is the case, then I shudder to think what the figures would be for modular homes.

To fully embrace the delivery benefits of modular housing, a change in perception will, inevitably, be needed. In the industry, heavy hitters like Tom Bloxham (of Urban Splash) have already put their weight behind the process, and in the political realm, Sadiq Khan has committed £25million to Pocket Living’s aim of delivering 1,000 affordable homes in London (even if they are below space standards). This kind of influence will, no doubt, improve public perception and will prove crucial to speeding up housing delivery. But, there is still much more to be done from the industry and national government; acting on the funding commitments in the Housing White Paper for a start.

Ultimately, modular housing isn’t going to solve the housing crisis on its own – but the speed of delivery it can offer may prove a vital piece in the puzzle and getting the public on board is a crucial start to the process.