Modular homes have long been hailed as the potential solution to the UK’s housing crisis.
Yet for all the hype, no-one has managed to deliver them at volume in this country. Could we finally be reaching a tipping point?
I reckon we might be. This week’s news that Places for People (PfP) has joined forces with ilke Homes to create a £100m partnership follows hot on the heels of the £90m tie-up between Japan’s largest modular construction firm, Sekisui House, Urban Splash and Homes England. Now we just need a third bus to come along and we will have a proper convoy.
It’s about time. While it is laudable that Berkeley Homes and Legal & General have moved into modular, the market needs players that are committed – and able – to deliver at volume if modular is to be elevated from a niche to a mainstream product. Until now, too many housebuilders have been put off by the high costs and too few have felt the need to deliver quickly, the big upside of modular.
Deliver at volume, however, and those costs come down – as does the end price. Deliver quickly, as PfP wants to because it is in the business of affordable build-to-rent, and as Homes England wants to, because it is in the business of being the government’s housing accelerator, and there could finally be real momentum behind the delivery of modular at scale. Enlist the help of players such as Sekisui, which is in the business of being a volume modular player, and suddenly there is the way as well as the will.
What differentiates these latest modular initiatives from some of their predecessors is that they rely on bringing different disciplines, via different partners, together and they are innovative. Another sector that is finally being transformed by much-needed innovation is retail, and they don’t come much more innovative than Market Halls, winner of this year’s occupier of the year award at the Property Awards.
Having already opened two sites in London, in Fulham and Victoria, and with three more in the pipeline, including one at intu’s Lakeside shopping centre in Essex, it is now looking to roll out its casual dining offer to out-of-town shopping centres across the UK.
This is surely exactly the sort of mixed-use model that all landlords, particularly retail landlords, should be looking to replicate. If physical retail is to thrive as well as survive, it can no longer be a passive proposition. To lure people away from internet shopping, retailers have to offer people food and drink, leisure, an experience or, as charismatic Boxpark founder Roger Wade puts it more succinctly, content – and that content has to constantly evolve.
It is no different in residential, where experience, service and branding are becoming more important and the future is also looking increasingly mixed use. Needless to say mixed use and modular will be top of the agenda at this year’s key RESI Convention, which takes place on 11 to 13 September at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. This year’s theme is: ‘From 2020 to 2040 Vision’. To find out more, visit resiconf.com.