Factory-built homes mimicking the car industry could well be the future, but right now, offsite manufacturing only accounts for a small proportion of housing delivery. Our property podcast asks how we can look to a future of faster delivery where no one mentions the word “prefab”.
Modular housing has the potential to play a crucial role in delivering the homes needed to meet the government’s ambitious 300,000 homes a year target.
Speeding up delivery will be essential to meeting these targets, and given that offsite manufacturing, on average, delivers homes twice as fast as traditional construction, many in the sector believe it will have a major role to play in tackling the housing crisis.
But if modular is going to deliver on its promise and secure the necessary investment and gain public trust, educating investors, policy-makers, local authorities and consumers will be crucial, an expert panel told Property Week on a RESIcast.
Tackling the negative connotations attached to prefabs which continue to tarnish modular’s reputation will be a crucial first step, both from both an investor and consumer perspective. A unified message from the sector will be fundamental to achieving this.
“We need a feedback programme to build demand for the modular product, and I think that in itself will generate capacity and give businesses the confidence to build new factories across the country,” says Val Bagnall, managing director of Apex Airspace, a modular housing provider.
Consumer confidence in modular homes will be based on its build and design quality, according to Michela Hancock, managing director of construction and development at property developer, investor and manager Greystar UK.
“People don’t necessarily know, nor do they care if their home is a modular product. What they do care about is the quality of the product and if it’s sustainable and well-run,” she said.
Bagnall agrees, “Customers want something they can see value in. If they didn’t why wouldn’t we all just be living in caves?”
Although modular can be used for a variety of tenures and sold at a range of price points, its most common application in the residential sector is in the Build to Rent and student housing sector.
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman of off-site manufacturer ilke Homes, believes this flexibility does not negatively impact design quality.
“Modular doesn’t just have to be for the entry-point house, it can be designed to be aesthetically pleasing. You can dress a modular product to be extremely attractive.”
The government’s targets for the UK to have net zero carbon emissions means that sustainability has become an increasing focus point for the construction industry.
Modular homes, once completed, look identical to traditionally built homes. However, they are more energy efficient and more sustainable to build, due to the reduced time on site.
And this, Sheridan argues, is what can sell the concept of modular homes to the public. “When they see the fuel bills are a lot less and their home is a lot more efficient … the customer doesn’t care whether they’re modular or traditional.”
Val Bagnall, managing director of Apex Airspace
Michela Hancock, managing director of construction and development of Greystar UK
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman of ilke Homes
Andrew Teacher, Blackstock Consulting
You can listen to this podcast via iTunes or Spotify or or listen to it through the player above. This podcast was produced by Blackstock Consulting [www.blackstock.co.uk] founder Andrew Teacher and you can Tweet your views @andrewjteacher and @RESIevent
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