Are prefabricated homes the answer to the housing crisis?

It has been well reported that the current housing shortage in the UK has caused numerous problems - high rent, lack of housing choice and an increasing strain on local councils to house residents.  Chelmsford City Council has taken a different approach to solving this problem.  The BBC recently reported on their intended use of prefabricated housing to help alleviate the housing shortage for those on the housing waiting list.  This is a rather innovative method of dealing with the housing shortage.  It also raises the question: why has it taken so long?

In comparing house building to other areas of manufacturing, a clear lack of modernisation is highlighted.  For example, the first car was built in 1855-6; the model T Ford was then mass produced in 1908.  Just over 50 years to adapt to an industrial process - it is now the anomaly when a car is not manufactured in an automated factory.  Yet somehow house construction has maintained traditional construction methods.  Manually laying one brick on top of another, a pre-industrial method of construction in a post-industrial era.  The materials have been available for many years and technology is constantly making the process easier, yet prefabricated homes are not the norm.

Classic views of prefabs are slowly changing and criticisms hold less weight, although the example in Chelmsford does not help the situation.  The rectangular green unit, reminiscent of a shipping container, is not what most people want as a home.  However, there are many prefabricated houses available, that most people would struggle to identify as different from a traditionally constructed house.  There are a growing number of prefab house companies, such as Hans Haus, Living Homes and Connect Homes, producing highly innovative and aesthetically pleasing homes.

The shift towards prefab is taking place across the UK to resolve the housing shortage.  Your Housing Group signed a £2.5bn deal with a renewable energy company to produce modular housing with off-grid capability.  The deal includes six factories across the UK.

Due to price advantages and reduced build times Councils will undoubtedly continue to fill emergency housing supply gaps with prefabricated houses. With so many innovations coming to the prefab market, there is also bound to be a growth of prefabs in the supply of housing to the traditional market.  With high-quality materials, the precision of computer and mechanical production, there is no reason that prefab should not supersede brick house construction over the coming decades and could provide the quick boost to housing supply that this country has been crying out for.

This article was written by Laurence Swain, Account Executive.