New report calls for more government support to boost modular construction

Places for People and the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research have launched a report calling on the government and housebuilders to come together to create more UK homes using modular construction.

‘Deploying Modular Housing in the UK’ outlines ways to viably accelerate the use of this type of construction in the UK.

Among the recommendations within the paper are calls for government support — both financially through grants and subsidies for developers using modular technologies, and through planning policy incentives. 

It also appeals for industry standards and warranties akin to traditional builds, something the authors say will “provide certainty and confidence”, not only for housebuilders, but for end users and traditional lenders which are sometimes cautious of lending against modular homes.

According to the 34-page paper, a systematic data capture and evidence collection by housebuilders would be beneficial to create a strong evidence base of the benefits of offsite housing construction and MMC — something which would help to combat customers’ mistrust, overcome risk aversion, and boost confidence among lenders.

The document also addresses the UK’s skills shortage, with traditional and modular building expertise varying greatly.

Gemma Burgess, director of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research at The University of Cambridge, said: “An 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 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.” 

The report also proposes for the standardisation of materials and having a ‘kit of parts’ to be used across the industry by different manufacturers, as well as the idea of ‘innovation champions’ among housebuilders and developers — individuals and companies that actively use modular and offsite approaches and MMC — in order to boost their efforts and promote the benefits of innovation.

Scott Black, group executive director for development at Places for People, commented: “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.

“There do however need to be initiatives to promote this within the housebuilding industry. 

“Such plans would provide structures for effective communication, synthesise learning, and help to build networks and collaboration opportunities.”

Leave a comment