Modular housing conference brings industry experts together

Wed 1 May 2019, 4:42 pm

Housing industry experts today came to City Hall, London, to hear about the positive impact and future viability of modular methods of construction in enabling a greater number of UK homes to be built, bringing benefits to communities.

Modmatch was organised by 3Fox International and chaired by the BBC’s home editor, Mark Easton. It featured a morning format of speeches, case studies and discussions led by experts in the field – and afternoon ‘speed-dating’ meetings, with conversations about how the public and private sectors can collaborate to make a success of modular – a construction method where component housing parts are built off-site.

This collaborative approach was a common theme throughout the morning, where speakers included Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) president Ben Derbyshire; deputy mayor for housing at the Greater London Authority (GLA), James Murray and assistant director – housing diversification at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Jessica Skilbeck.

Mark Baigent, director of the Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise (PLACE) – which aims to use modular techniques to provide temporary accommodation for the homeless – revealed during a presentation that Extraspace Solutions had won a contract to manufacture 200 homes for several London boroughs, including Ealing, Lambeth and Redbridge.

Elsewhere, successful UK modular housing case studies were presented by  HTA Design, Greystar, nHouse, Ilke Homes, Urban Splash and industry leader Vision/Tide Construction which is delivering tallest modular housing towers in the world in Croydon.

Katie Saunders, partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins, spoke of how the procurement process can be improved to enable the success of modular housebuilding.

The potential barriers and downsides to modern methods of construction were also discussed, including how to alleviate concerns over modular housing resembling ill-conceived identikit units built in the post-second world war boom period. Precision engineering and the ability to create bespoke designs were demonstrated through presentations, with the potential to transform the negative reputation of “prefab” style housing of the past.

With the housing crisis showing no signs of slowing down, Skilbeck of MHCLG said there was a real need for the industry to become "more productive and innovative". Modular could be successful, she said, providing there is the "certainty of demand" and that through increasing supply, the focus should be on good quality, affordable housing, with the element of choice.

Murray, who is overseeing the GLA’s £4.8 billion affordable housing ambitions, said: “At City Hall, we think we can provide a real boost to construction in the right places.

“We think it’s important to build confidence in these new methods of construction, so people will want to invest in them for the future and see that they can deliver really high quality homes that people want to live in."

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