PBC today magazine recently reported due to our housing crisis, skills shortages & lack of affordable homes in the UK that modular has been hailed by many as a possible answer to solve ‘some’ housing challenges. Amongst serious misunderstandings my concern is although there is clearly a role for semi-skilled labour any manufacturing plant will need many highly skilled professionals which require substantial training, therefore serious existing & indeed ongoing investment. Modular doesn't necessarily replace a skills shortage over traditional construction.
Whilst we are genuinely sad to see the UK miss a trick decades ago, where foreign supply has taken over, collaboration is the solution. What will help is for the UK to really get to grips with the implications including funding, mortgage ability & risks associated. Consider the UK is not an exception for quality & stringent accreditation requirement - overseas supply chain are providing modular solutions worldwide to highest standards for many years.
With these many misconceptions about the industry including theories of lack of quality, difficulty securing finance there is mass confusion over accreditation & contracts. The real fact remains that government still needs to deliver 300,000 homes a year, currently falling well short (now promising 1million homes in 5 years) so we need to act now and resolve what has become a 'lead weight' to our country. The serious challenge of MMC in the UK is to deliver at scale whereby homegrown OSM's are in a very weak position bar roughly 4 major players who are full to production capacity or those new ones not past prototype production. In comparison the size & productivity output is tiny compared to overseas. The market needs cohesion with more control over new build delivery, collaboration with overseas partners with support from regulatory bodies giving more confidence to investors, lenders, insurance & warranty markets. It's all about sensible collaboration, working to the UK's benefit - not a competition - the UK will never be able to compete with overseas OSM firepower considering a multitude of countries let alone China who have incredible Off-Site solutions.
With many overseas OSM's considering which specific markets to attack, our supply chain from the Baltics, Poland, France, Italy, China & Malaysia consider UK opportunities vast, the profitability based on sheer volume for affordable high quality housing is appealing although lower profit compared to Scandinavia which has a smaller requirement albeit.
The process requires the same materials, standards and codes as traditional, some OSM's we see quoting in their websites (& verbally) up to 60% time savings, which may perhaps be an exaggeration by excitable sales folk but even at 40% that is a far better result. The benefits are exponential including quality control, safety, speed, less impact to the environment & less waste. The price is not necessarily cheaper for materials, the savings are on program & prelims which is of great interest to developers and investors in particular. The key issue is production capacity, strong balance sheet, experience & delivery by OSM's which is not easy to find but it's doable, we know.
As the greatest believer in MMC it seems we are moving slowly towards solving our housing crisis adopting modular in one way or another although no means a total solution. Consider 8.4 million people in the UK are living in unsuitable housing before we pontificate further. Property developers clearly favouring to build luxury apartments not affordable and without an incentive why would they change their strategy?
I can agree to an acceleration of the existing 'evolution' somewhat, but not a 'storm' other than constant Press hype that more people are appreciating the merits of adopting MMC including modular of all types from 3D Volumetric to elements, light gauge steel, hybrid etc. Continued momentum of actual delivery rather than words and begin to trust overseas supply chain working closely but yet at the same time invest in our people. We need an urgent new radical approach to help create a significant capital pool to deliver low-cost housing, releasing pockets of green belt which is often over rated and no significant value environmentally. Start building new factories now in the UK, in 3 years time they may be ready for full operation, until then continue to tap in to the worlds OSM supply chain.
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