Recently there has been increasing talk of modular housing, and the role it could play in alleviating our shortage of homes. By using factory-built modular units, the housing industry could work to build the homes we need faster than its current rate, which is well below the 250,000 homes which the Barker Review said that we would need to be building each year in the UK by now.

A modular houseThe idea behind modular construction is simple; by using standard, pre-design parts built in a factory, constructors can save time overall through a much faster construction period at site. And when pre-built parts are mentioned don’t picture pre-fabricated buildings of old; these houses have better quality, less waste, better energy efficiency, and lower costs for buyers than even conventional building methods can manage. As the parts are standardised and built in the more controlled environment that a factory provides, quality control is much easier. Furthermore, the factory model gives less propensity for waste, and new and innovative energy efficiency and cost-saving measures can be implemented much easier. And even from inception the engineers can use techniques to design the building for manufacture and assembly to result in a better product.

There may be worry that the use of factory labour to reduce the need for site work would disadvantage workers and result in job losses at the sites. But these workers are simply redeployed to the factories, and there will always be the need for some construction at site. Overall, the amount of work needed is similar, but by moving to the factory companies can reduce accidents as the area is much more controllable. Furthermore, it is much easier and more advantageous for them to invest in training staff to become multi-skilled.

The field of modular construction is only just coming to the fore, but even now it’s around the same cost to the constructor as a conventional build, and this is only set to decrease as time goes on and research into methods, techniques and materials improves. Overall, the use of modular housing is likely to help the country to build even more homes. In Bristol, Labour has pledged to get the city building 2000 new homes a year by 2020, 800 of which will be classed as affordable. This is a large task, but construction companies, architects, engineers and others have already said that they’re up for the challenge and agree that it is achievable. The use of modular construction could help them to achieve that even faster.

 

Image copyright Grap under this GNU Free Documentation license.

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