Modular home factories spring up in UK

Nick Myall
Wednesday 22 Feb 2017

As housing supply lags behind demand countries are turning to modular housing to fill the gap

Modular homes built in factories and transported to their final locations for assembly are increasingly being turned to as a solution to mounting housing shortages globally. 

As a result more and more modular homes will be constructed in the UK as the government looks at ways to meet its target to provide a million new homes by 2020. Purpose built factories are now springing up in the UK to satisfy this demand for modular housing and as a consequence the UK’s ability to make new homes could be transformed.

From its 550,000 sq ft factory in North Yorkshire and using volumetric assembly techniques, Legal & General Homes Modular is working in close collaboration with clients to design and deliver precision-engineered accommodation modules, formed from cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels. L&G are so confident in the finished product that they are able to offer a 10-year structural warranty and 60+ year design life assessment. L&G state that this approach leads to the following benefits over traditional construction techniques. 

  • Reduced onsite construction time, less disruption for residents local to the construction site, reduced Health & Safety exposure for client contractors and lower repair costs
  • Superior noise control for airborne and impact sound transmission, better thermal performance, greater sustainability and a lower carbon footprint 
  • Mitigation of weather-related issues to which construction projects are typically exposed

A plan has also been released by China National Building Material Company to make 25,000 British modular homes a year in six new factories in the UK.

China National Building Material Company is clubbing together with Your Housing Group – a leading UK housing association - to make modular houses as part of a joint venture worth £2.75bn. The deal builds upon technology developed by Barcelona Housing Systems, and will create 1,000 jobs. 

Government statistics suggest that the UK needs a million new homes by 2020, but last year just 142,890 homes were built, below the 200,000-a-year target.

The plan is that by 2022, the factories will be building 25,000 homes a year, with 2,000 homes scheduled for next year.

Peng Shou, the chairman of China National Building Material Company said: “The key to unlocking the opportunities to address the housing needs of the UK is through the development and delivery of an industrialisation strategy at significant scale.”

Renewable energy supplier, Welink is also involved in the project. Ajmal Rahman, chairman of Welink Group said: “The UK’s housing shortfall is only going to be addressed by radical innovation in building practices which opens the way for modular housing,”

“This is a clear endorsement of the UK’s attractiveness as a place for inward investment. This announcement has the potential to benefit local communities across the country, creating jobs, boosting local economies and creating homes,” said International Trade Minister, Greg Hands.

The homes will be charged at least partially by solar power and 75% of the energy used by each home will be off-grid.

Part of the problem of low housing supply in the UK is planning permission holding back construction. But there are bottle necks among constructors. For one thing, many constructors are unable to raise the finance they need to create new houses, for another, even if they can raise the money, there is a shortage of skilled labour.

Swan Housing Association has also announced that it is set to open a new 75,000 sq ft factory in Basildon in the UK with the first homes due this summer.

The Factory will generate up to 40 local jobs and support the economy within Basildon.  It will build local and national expertise in manufacturing and support the UK modular industry.  At full capacity it will be able to deliver over 300 homes a year built using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT).

John Synnuck, Swan's Chief Executive, said: "At Swan we understand that the desperate need for quality new homes. We believe that off-site construction methods will enable us to deliver these much needed homes quickly, designed to a high specification and with reduced impact on both local residents and the environment. We are excited to be early adopters in the UK of this this new way of working".

World Architecture News are holding a Housing Symposium on May 23rd in Central London.

Experts will debate the Perfect Storm of conditions on the near horizon, which could provide a unique, once-in-a-lifetime climate for delivering a record number of housing units to the London boroughs. Follow the link to book your place...

Nick Myall

News editor

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