Modular house-building as a response to the housing crisis

Dr Andrew Wallace & Dr Ornella Iuorio

School of Sociology and Social Policy (in collaboration with the School of Earth and Environment)

Responsive Mode Impact Fund

In 2016, the UK government set its target of building one million new homes by 2020. This was in response to long-term structural failures in the housing supply, especially at the affordable level. At the same time, the housing construction sector is facing post-Brexit skills shortages and undergoing a technical revolution. One outcome of these trends has been the rapid increase in automated, off-site modular house-building. Modular housing has evolved substantially in the last century – from heavy prefabrication methods to lightweight construction with high added value, functional to the rapidity of production cycle and with a lower use of resources, easily mountable and adaptable to context variability. However, this has increased the complexity of the supply chain and raised enough questions about what skills and technologies are required to sustain this young industry. Thus far, modular housing has most notably been commissioned piecemeal by municipalities looking for temporary accommodation (e.g. for local homeless populations) and by ‘lifestyle’ developers who target young, middle income ‘flexible’ professionals and there is a lack of strategic thinking about what form modular house building can/should take as it moves mainstream. Yorkshire has emerged as a significant region for this industry both as a client seeking to increase local housing supply and as the site for a number of firms innovating in the sector (e.g. Legal and General plant near Selby; WikiHouse in Sheffield). At this critical juncture in the industry’s growth, this project will draw on both PIs expertise and networks to bring together representatives from local planning authorities, modular construction companies (e.g. Kingspan, Yorkon) and property development companies (Urban Splash, QED Sustainable Urban Developments) to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders, share technical expertise and develop a roadmap towards a more strategic and sustainable role for the modular sector within the Yorkshire/UK housing market.