Government and housebuilders urged to speed up modular building

Modular homes are delivered to the new community of Inholme (Image courtesy of Homes England)

The government and housebuilders have been urged to accelerate the use of modular construction in the UK by a new report, produced by Places for People and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

The 34-page report, Deploying Modular Housing in the UK, outlines a vision for accelerating modular construction and calls for more government support.

It recommends more grants and subsidies for developers using modular technology, as well as planning and policy incentives, and industry standards and warranties akin to traditional builds to promote certainty and confidence for housebuilders as well as end users and lenders.

It also calls for systematic data capture and evidence collection by housebuilders to create a strong evidence base of the benefits of offsite housing construction and MMC. Places for People said more evidence was needed to combat customers’ mistrust, overcome risk aversion, and boost confidence among lenders.

And it proposes the idea of ‘innovation champions’ among housebuilders and developers. Other recommendations include proposals for the standardisation of materials, and having a ‘kit of parts’ to be used across the industry by different manufacturers

Scott Black, group executive director – development, at Places for People, said: “There are so many potential benefits to creating homes using modular technologies, but there are a host of current barriers and constraints that need addressing.

“Issues such as regulatory and approval barriers, skills shortages in the factories and a lack of cross-sector support are hindering the growth of modular construction – slowing down the take up. As an industry, we have the vision and the capabilities, but we need to pull together to address the barriers outlined in this report, and pave the way for a sustainable, modular future, one underpinned by an adequately skilled workforce who can drive the technology forward – helping establish it as a credible building practice for future consumers.”

The report also addresses the skills shortage in the UK sector, with traditional and modular building skills varying greatly. Gemma Burgess, director of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research at the University of Cambridge, co-authored the report and added: “Another important factor is the need for investment in the development of a different set of skills than those used on traditional sites.

“This can be achieved by equipping the industry’s labour force with the necessary tools – including digital literacy and the use of new software and knowledge in offsite manufacture. This will all go hand in hand with retraining schemes and education programmes in collaboration with national and local government, education providers, industry bodies and the housebuilding industry.”

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