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Modular or Not to Modular?

18/01/18
Posted by: Aaron Robbins

The rise of interest in Modular building techniques cannot be ignored. Legal & General are the big advocates of this at the moment and Berkeley Group are looking to build a factory in Kent to produce modular units.

For bigger national house builders and property developers the attraction is quite clear. The ability to pump out a higher volume of standardised product at a cheaper price.

The government and authorities will obviously also be very keen on this as it means we might get nearer to the annual new house target. The increase in speed of building this type of homes comes part due to the construction of the pieces being in a controlled indoor environment that can’t blame weather for delays.

Modular homes are in majority being built by the manufacturer, which means that supplies are usually pressing to get the job done on time. Where as the materials for a stick built home may be sourced from all over the country, where each different supplier must get the materials to the builder on time or the build will be delayed before its even started. There are also many opportunities for things to go wrong just in the transportation process of materials. 

However, one major problem could be that we end up building and living in identikit homes with no real design flair. Whilst building homes for people to live in is vital we also have a responsibility to building aesthetically pleasing environments that enhance the space it inhibits. If the industry is just pumping out similar designs because they are constrained by design parameters, then we are failing the wider cultural and socio-economic requirements.

Another issue is financing modular homes from a home buyers point of view can be difficult. modular homes need to be built with a corresponding finance plan that will differ from the mortgage plan associated with traditional stick frame homes. Being that modular house building is still very new there is no easy process of getting finance for one. The builder will want to be paid in full before the home is finished and will often want periodic payments to finance the building process. Meaning a normal mortgage will not work and banks have been known to deny some people the required loan.

Modular homes are historically associated with lower quality, this is no longer the case today. Various companies are making modular homes attractive by using geometric and modern exterior finishing’s, coupled with use of open spaces and maximise natural light. To bring a higher quality of modular housing. Builders are also looking to maximise energy efficiency through numerous methods such as using LED lighting and installing solar panels. Although these are all effective methods of making modular housing not just more efficient but also closer to the personally design homes we all want. Theses efforts could be going in to making more things like LED lighting, solar panels and other efficient energy methods a standard in our current new build sites.

Having said that we also have a responsibility to the environment and to build as economical as we can. As modular houses are built in a factory this means that all the excess materials are able to be recycled. This may not sound impressive, but one of the dirty secrets of site builders is the amount of waste a new site built home generates. When you consider the amount of new homes the government is aiming to build that waste soon adds up.

Its exciting times in the house building industry at the moment with so many changes having already happened over the past 2 years I am expecting more and more evolution and disruption. Essentially, we are a muck and bullets labour led industry but that doesn’t mean we can’t change with the times. Yes, there will be those who want to keep the status quo as they “have always done it that way” but we all need to embrace change and new ways of doing things.

Modular building is here to stay and in time I am certain will be a bedrock of the property industry. It isn’t the silver bullet for building new homes but is part of a new wave that will transform and modernise.