Editor: The news that housing minister Esther McVey has called for the UK to become a ‘centre of excellence’ for modular housing, with the north of England as the ‘construction hub’, couldn’t come soon enough.
McVey rightly envisages that if done properly, modern methods of construction could ultimately become a £40bn post-Brexit industry.
However, there are more immediate benefits to the wider use of modular housing that make its increased introduction across the UK all the more crucial. Indeed, the bigger issue is the part modular housing can play in helping to solve the UK’s housing crisis.
The UK needs to build around 300,000 houses annually over the next decade and beyond to keep pace with the demand for new homes. This task will come at a cost of some £68bn; of that figure, 100,000 affordable homes annually are needed. This is where modular housing has a critical role to play.
This model offers a huge opportunity to construct housing more cost-effectively and efficiently. Modular homes can be built to a high quality more quickly than using traditional building practices – in an estimated 50% of the time – offering a huge reduction in construction costs, materials and the need for skilled labour. This means more homes, which are more economically viable with increased efficiency.
So it is good news that government is taking the option of modular construction seriously, but we need to do more and we need to do it quickly to address an ever-more urgent housing crisis.
As a first step, we can learn from other countries where modular construction has long been a core part of homebuilding, such as Germany and Sweden. Our government should look to them to ensure that this expertise is adopted across the UK, otherwise we risk McVey’s ‘centre of excellence’ becoming little more than a dream.
Rich Hyams, founder and director, Astudio Architects