By Daniel Fryd, Senior Consultant
Whatever your new year’s resolutions are, they are probably not as ambitious as Kit Malthouse’s.
The Housing Minister, who will have served five months in the role next week, shared a New Year’s Day message on social media saying his number one new year’s resolution for 2019 is to innovate Britain’s housebuilding industry so it focuses on using modern methods of construction and new technology.
Branding the current system of house building ‘old fashioned’, Malthouse said getting the UK housebuilding industry to adopt more modern methods of construction is vital for driving up housing delivery to meet the 300,000 homes a year target the government has adopted.
In a clear statement of intent to integrate Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) more widely, Malthouse said 2019 would see him putting serious pressure on “every part” of the housebuilding industry to modernise and use new technology to deliver more homes and build on the 222,000- homes delivered in 2018
Very Modern Methods
Malthouse and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire have been eager to put funding towards growing modern methods of construction (MMC) and spoke on a number of occasions throughout 2018 on how Britain can become a pioneer of MMC.
In July, Brokenshire released a £450m fund through the Accelerated Construction programme to speed up delivery of homes on surplus public sector land through the use of Modern Methods of Construction and SME builders.
Just last week Homes England released a further £120,000 to Nuneaten and Bedford council for a pilot scheme to build four modular semi-detached homes. Earlier in the month Homes England put their money where their mouth is and appointed MacAvoy to construct their new South East office through off-site construction.
There is still a long way to go before MMC is fully integrated and adopted across the board however, as the House of Lords report ‘Offsite Manufacture for Construction: Building for Change’ highlighted.
In the report, Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee Lord Patel said the construction sector is working with fragmented, “outdated and unsustainable business models” not conducive to offsite manufacture, and that there is a need to “build more trust and create partnerships” in the construction industry to boost off-site manufacturing.
Fragmentation and distrust in the construction industry will not disappear overnight, but direction from the Construction Leadership Council to involve designers, contractors and suppliers early in the off-site manufacturing process will be a start.
Further MHCLG policies to implement the Budget 2017 commitment for the “presumption in favour of offsite manufacture” by 2019 for government departments will be a big help as well in showing government’s commitment.
Ahead of the 2017 general election, the Conservative Party promised to deliver 1.5 million new homes by 2022. More recently, Brokenshire and Malthouse have said they want to see Britain delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
There are clearly significant benefits to the lower costs, faster delivery and standardisation that modular homes bring in helping to meet this target. Integrating MMC into as many new developments as possible will help the public see the quality of the homes and to see how they are far from ‘pre-fab’ shacks.
While Modular Homes are certainly part of achieving the target, it is clear they aren’t going to solve the country’s housing woes by themselves. Around 60% of new homes delivered in the country are built by just 10 housebuilders.
It will take a serious amount of investment in new factories to achieve the economies of scale and produce the volume of new homes needed to encourage the major players to adopt MMC more widely.
Wider government investment, MMC initiatives and a presumption in favour of using modular homes on new Government buildings is a good starting point. Let’s just hope that unlike most new year’s resolutions, Malthouse’s lasts past January 12th.
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