The government faces an ever-growing list of issues that it needs to tackle. Covid’s immediate legacy is rising unemployment, with almost two million now out of work. That’s only going to increase as support schemes such as furlough are tapered in the coming months.
Of course, this government also has to contend with that perennial headache for the British political class, the housing crisis, as well as devising ways to pivot the UK towards becoming a net-zero economy by 2050.
Modular housing is in a position to help tackle both of these issues.
From a jobs perspective, if support for modular housing sees the sector grow, it could provide 50,000 high-productivity and quality jobs. That’s nearly a third of the jobs directly involved in car making, a sector that is facing a tough transition to net-zero.
Compared with the automotive industry, modular housing is still in its infancy in the UK. If supported and nourished, it could become a major employer.
Given there is no requirement for offsite factories to be anywhere near the location where homes will ultimately be delivered, as the finished product can simply be transported to its destination, factories can be positioned anywhere in the country, including areas that might need an employment boost, aiding the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
Our own factory is in Derbyshire, close to the Rolls-Royce factory, which, for example, has announced recent job losses. With growing demand, we are creating new employment in the area.
That employment will also be offered across the skills and experience spectrum, which is certainly not the case for construction today.
One barrier to construction employment is long-standing stigma. A report on the topic found that 61% of contractors said that construction jobs were perceived as “dirty” jobs, while 55% said that people perceived construction work as needing more brute strength than skill.
Offsite manufacturing can help battle these stereotypes, while also offering jobs for a variety of skill levels. It is particularly well-suited to encouraging a more diverse workforce, as it requires less prior experience. Offsite manufacturing provides skills across different disciplines, unlike traditional construction where an employee typically learns a single trade.
By working along production lines, employees learn how to operate complex machinery and use the latest digital technologies.
The process of creation is very similar to that of both car and aerospace manufacturing, and skills are therefore transferable across the manufacturing spectrum, opening up a range of long-term career opportunities.
Furthermore, modular is well-placed to provide the green skills outlined by the government to meet its carbon-neutral targets. The manufactured nature and design quality of TopHat’s homes result in the embodied carbon of our homes being 1/27th of that of a traditionally constructed home.
Efficient material use means there is very little material waste in the manufacturing process, and this also results in higher tolerances, delivering less leaky and less wasteful buildings.
Ultimately, with modular housing able to deliver homes faster than traditional methods, it’s a green, clean solution to the housing crisis that can provide jobs up and down the land.
Jordan Rosenhaus is chief executive and co-founder of TopHat