Time to change the approach

Next week, during the CIH Housing Conference we are showcasing our innovative volumetric home.

At our recent CHIC annual conference in Worcester, Sir Edward Lister explained  Homes England support for offsite manufacturing during his conference plenary, he stated that Modular is the future for social and affordable home building, and that Homes England will be prioritising modular in supporting social / affordable housing delivery.

So, is it time to change the approach to deliver the new housing we so desperately need?

The growing scale of the housing and homelessness problems facing the country is such that industry bodies are significantly revising upwards their estimates of the new homes needed to make inroads into the existing backlog and meet future demand.

Figures recently released by the National Housing Federation and the charity Crisis, show that England is short of four million homes and to solve this, we need to be building 340,000 new homes a year until the year 2031.

This is a level of housebuilding we haven’t seen for almost 50 years – when 364,480 new homes were completed in 1971/72 across the whole of the UK. By comparison just 178,450 homes were built in the year to April 2017 and even this only  represented a modest increase on annual totals from each of the previous seven years.

In addition, the NHF and Crisis say that 40 per cent of the new homes (145,000) need to be truly affordable, which is roughly double the current official estimate. They have suggested that this figure should include:

  • 90,000 homes for social rent;
  • 30,000 homes for intermediate affordable rent; and
  • 25,000 homes for shared ownership.

We all know that money alone will not solve the problem of housing supply and there are real fears that a shrinking of the construction sector’s labour force (through retirement and foreign workers returning home ahead of Brexit) will greatly undermine efforts to boost the building of new homes. There aren’t enough apprentices being taken on and trained to fill the growing gap in capacity.

The Government wants to promote and support housing manufacture “offsite”, but developers have yet to embrace OSM (it doesn’t suit their model) so it’s down to the affordable housing sector to combine its order books and change the approach.

It has the benefit of being more efficient to build, requiring less labour, fewer accidents and producing a more consistent quality compared to traditional construction methods. This is a construction type used extensively in Germany and other parts of Europe, so why not here in the UK?

As well as the obvious benefits of off-site construction, our BuildSmart framework combines volume, standardisation, co-ordinated materials supply and efficient processes which provide price parity across all construction solutions (panel and traditional).

Our volumetric house will be available to visit within the Offsite village at the front of the conference centre. You can book a tour of the house at the Reallies stand C20.

By changing the approach to collaborate and secure a volume order book, factory built housing will become more competitive.