Modular: The solution to Britain's housing crisis?
With over a million new homes needed in the next three to five years, modular construction has the potential to be of significant assistance, particularly given a worsening skills shortage across the UK construction industry, likely to be exacerbated by Brexit.
In 2016, a government-commissioned review of the UK construction labour model carried out by consultant Mark Farmer warned that the industry needed to ‘modernise or die’, in particular changing the way in which buildings are constructed.
As recently as July 2018, the UK government has highlighted off-site manufacturing as a core component of a £420m construction sector deal. The deal is intended to transform construction productivity through the use of innovative technologies - building more homes, more quickly and with less disruption - in a so called ‘bytes and mortar’ revolution.
Modular construction, a Modern Method of Construction (MMC), is a term used for a variety of different modern building methods in which components of the building, or modules, are prefabricated away from the building site itself. Modular construction can enable a range of efficiencies and improvements through the employment of factory processes in construction jobs. In this paper we set out recent developments in modular construction, with a particular focus on residential housing development, setting out the primary benefits of this mode of construction. However, there are obstacles that have prevented its widespread adoption to date, posing the question of whether modular construction could be the sole answer to our housing crisis or rather, should be just one part of a suite of measures.
As interest in modular building grows, we set out key learnings from modular techniques to date, balancing the benefits and drawbacks. We also look to future application potential, particularly with a view to supporting the urgent need for an effective solution to the housing crisis.