Is the focus on modern methods of construction to increase housebuilding misplaced?
Chris Stanley, housing manager at Concrete Block Association, says YES.
The current media excitement around modern methods of construction, particularly modular, is largely a result of favourable public funding schemes. To solve the housing crisis, the government needs a far more considered, holistic approach. It seems that it has jumped on the latest fad, conveniently giving the impression that this is innovative.
But offsite construction is not particularly forward-thinking. Yes, it might work as a short-term fix, but these initiatives have a tendency to unravel in the long term. We run a real risk of repeating the mistakes of the 50s and 60s, finding ourselves with an abundance of buildings that will start to show their age rapidly.
Progress isn’t always linear; why put all our focus on fashionable methods when the traditional, tried and tested ones build homes that stand the test of time? We may need more funding to upskill our workforce, but surely that requires fewer resources than creating an all-new “manu-construction” workforce, necessary for a large-scale roll-out of offsite construction.
Ian King, chief operating officer at Zeroignition, says NO.
The construction industry is facing skills shortages and a greying workforce, and is famously one of the UK’s most under-digitised and cost-focused industries.
We also have 79,880 families in temporary accommodation, at least 320,000 people who are homeless, and it is estimated that an extra 250,000 houses are needed each year. The increasing focus on funding modular, offsite construction which is fast and efficient with factory-production quality standards, coupled with the government’s drive to get building projects digitised, is what’s needed to get people housed now, not later.
Digitisation will fundamentally improve record keeping, and there’s likely to be an increased policing of construction projects post-Grenfell to guarantee real systemic accountability.
But innovation isn’t just digital. A host of new construction materials and building systems are being developed. These enable homes to be built faster and to higher standards than they currently are, and are critical to solving the housing crisis.