Has COVID-19 accelerated modular building?
Pre-pandemic, interest in modern methods of construction (MMC) was growing, albeit slowly. But has the pandemic sped things up?
The benefits of modular construction are no secret: increased safety on site and schedule certainty, as well as less material waste and fewer delays. Yet, despite many within the industry calling for greater use, modular take-up has remained slow and currently only accounts for a very small percentage of housing delivery.
Recent lockdowns and all the subsequent restrictions – along with the government’s ‘Build Build Build’ and ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ pledges – have seen greater emphasis placed on its utilisation as developers and housebuilders look for innovative solutions to deliver much-needed housing, quickly.
Traditional housebuilding methods remain the primary approach in the UK, but the last few months have forced the wider industry to think differently. The sector has looked at how it can innovate, adapt and ultimately build more homes in the face of the pandemic.
The proportion of new homes built using MMC is predicted to increase from the current 6-10% to 20% of market output in the coming years, according to the last report from Savills. Great news for the industry, but in order to meet the UK’s housing delivery target as well as its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, this has to increase.
Breaking the stigma
The industry has been slow to accept MMC because it is largely misunderstood. There is a stigma around modular and a general hesitance to change as people are used to working in the traditional way. Moreover, the market prefers brick-and-block and house-builders seem reluctant to educate on the advantages of other approaches. There is also a perception that the product is low quality and has no design integrity, but that simply isn’t the case any more.
There is a real lack of knowledge within the sector about modular and this reluctance to learn is stunting innovation and growth in the residential market – and ultimately preventing us from quickly building more homes.
Unlocking affordable housing schemes
The pandemic has changed the rules of the game and developers and landowners are beginning to consider how to move forwards. For instance, we have started to see local authorities look towards modular building as a way to unlock residential sites to deliver affordable housing.
More and more decision makers are waking up to the fact that modular housing is a viable option for a post-pandemic recovery. We’ll continue to champion its adoption.