Modular homes and extensions could boost the UK’s housing stock

by Eleanor Harvey

Some major developers are investing in modular home factories as more modern methods of construction begin to gain favour across the country. Faster, cheaper and eco-friendly, could we be about to see prefab homes making a comeback?

For most people in the UK, the idea of a prefabricated house is associated with the tens of thousands of quick-build properties that were constructed after the Second World War in the 1940s to make up the housing shortfall. Many were constructed from precast concrete, and they were designed to last a maximum of 10 years, although some are still being used today.

With advancements in technology, coupled with the pressing need to get more homes built across the country to keep up with demand, prefabricated or modular homes seem to be back in vogue as a feasible option for developers, housing associations and manufacturers, including Berkeley Homes and Swan Housing Association.

Faster delivery than bricks and mortar
One modular home development company, Ilke, is hoping to use the speedy creation of modular properties to ease the country’s housing shortage, and it is about to open its first factory in Harrogate with plans to deliver 2,000 homes a year. The new factory is expected to create 150 jobs initially, rising to 800 over the next three years.

Welcoming the project, Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Ilke Homes’ new factory in Harrogate will use innovative off-site manufacturing to build modular affordable homes, creating high quality jobs and contributing to the Industrial Strategy’s bold plan of action when it comes to infrastructure and housing. This includes an investment of £866m through the Housing Infrastructure Fund into local projects that will get 200,000 houses off the ground.”
Ilke Homes is also considering the government’s latest announcement for making it easier for properties to be built upwards by up to two storeys to create more living space.

Building capacity
In Manchester, property development company Urban Splash has already sold all of its modular family homes in its New Islington project, which consists of different sized homes which started at a launch price of £200,000. The company states the homes are occupied by a range of people from first-time buyers to young professionals, as well as older inhabitants, and the project’s success means the company is looking into similar developments in the future.

Urban Splash’s chief executive Tom Bloxham said: “We’ve shown there’s a demand for it, we’ve shown the quality is really good, and now it’s building the capacity.”

Some of the benefits touted for modular homes, aside from the speed of the build and cost savings in construction, include smaller energy bills for occupants, reduced need for skilled labour, and a smaller carbon footprint meaning benefits for the environment.

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