News that Birmingham is to build their first council-built modular houses has been warmly welcomed and could point to a solution to the current housing crisis.
There could be a long way to go – even though Sweden produces 84% of its homes in prefabricated forms using timber but modular homes are not as popular in the UK.
This might be about to change now that two factories in Yorkshire have gone into production producing prefab homes that will cost from £65,000.
The two and three-bedroom homes will be fully-fitted and made in a factory before being transported to where they are needed.
Essentially, the homes are bolted together on site and this can be done in as little as 36 hours. That’s a lot quicker than the average time of 32 weeks to build a traditional home.
Modular housing could provide a cost-effective solution
Among those who say modular housing could provide a cost-effective solution most of us are looking for is Insulation Express.
They say the UK needs to build 300,000 new homes every year between now and 2025 but the housing sector can only produce 183,000 homes currently – and just 22% of these properties will be classed as ‘affordable’.
Insulation Express says that with increasing rent prices, they have calculated that since 2011, private rents have grown 60% quicker than wages, means that affordable housing is desperately needed.
The firm highlights that there are four effective ways that modular homes can help overcome the UK’s housing crisis and they are:
- They are cheaper than traditional builds – prices start at £25,000, which is 11% of the UK’s average house price
- They are quicker to build – modular homes can be built in three days, whereas the average traditional build takes 32 weeks
- Poor weather can’t hamper construction – modular homes are manufactured inside factories
- Workers only need to be semi-skilled – as they are manufactured on a production line, it’s easier to train staff which will help overcome the current declining workforce in construction.
‘Modular housing could offer a quick-fix’
A spokeswoman for Installation Express said: “With 1.2 million households currently on the housing waiting list, modular housing could offer a quick-fix by providing good-quality accommodation at a faster rate and all whilst reducing government costs.”
There’s no doubt that modular housing may offer a solution, particularly to cash-strapped workers who in some areas need to fork out around eight times their annual income to buy a home, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
While some may turn their noses up at the potential of modular housing, these homes are not only cost effective and quick to assemble, they are also built to last and they leave a smaller carbon footprint than a traditional housebuilder does.
Also, since the homes are essentially built in a factory means there is a need for fewer builders working on site, which helps resolve the industry’s issue of having a shortage of skilled workers to build enough homes in the UK.
It’s early days yet but one of the factories in Yorkshire, which is run by Ilke Homes, can produce 2,000 houses every year and this will rise to 5,000.
When it does so, it will be among the top volume housebuilders in the UK.
Modular house building factory
There’s also another big modular house building factory near Leeds which has been created by the insurance firm Legal & General and it can build 3,500 homes every year.
Legal & General says it is looking to build similar factories around the UK which would then make the insurer a bigger home builder than some household names, including Barratt and Persimmon.
One of the big issues for building modular homes is that they should halve the energy bill that is racked up in a conventional house because of better levels of insulation.
Last year, nearly 220,000 homes were constructed in England and James Brokenshire, the government’s housing secretary, was invited to open the new Yorkshire factory a few months ago.
He said ideas that challenge the ways we have done things previously should be encouraged.
Mr Brokenshire added: “By the mid-2020s, we want 300,000 homes being delivered so we need to scale up and build more, faster and better. Which is precisely what this facility is about.”