Report hails offsite manufacturing as London’s saviour

Factory-built homes could provide the answer to London’s housing crisis, according to a recent report on behalf of the London Assembly Planning Committee.

Published by Nicky Gavron, the report ‘Designed, sealed, delivered: The contribution of offsite manufactured homes to solving London’s housing crisis’ recommended that the London Mayor provide clear and strong leadership in raising the awareness of offsite manufacturing’s (OSM) potential, that he work towards defining and adopting a Manufactured Housing Design Code, look at the potential of using TfL-owned land to stimulate the OSM sector and that he set up a dedicated OSM-specific procurement framework for London.

London needs 50,000 new homes a year to meet its growing demands, and so to reach this target an innovative approach could be vital. In the seventies, prefabricated housing contributed significantly to supply, and the report suggests the new model of factory manufactured homes is ‘light years’ ahead of this.

The Committee argued that today’s builders and manufacturers are producing offsite manufactured homes that are characterised by high quality, digital design, precision engineering and eco-efficient performance. It states that the wide variety of homes that OSM now produces can meet the needs of families with children, older people and single households, and that the business model could be particularly suitable for rental accommodation at all income levels. OSM buildings can reportedly also be built and occupied in half the time of conventional buildings, requiring fewer vehicles to transport materials to site.

Nicky Gavron, report author, believes that traditional construction techniques will only take us so far in the ‘huge task’ of meeting London’s housebuilding target.

She said:

“Offsite manufactured housing is an innovative, forward-looking and exciting way to close the gap. These buildings are high quality and outstanding in terms of performance. Their construction is more environmentally-friendly than traditional construction methods, and they are a far cry from their prefabricated predecessors.

“Few will disagree that using vacant public land to build homes quickly and with less pollution and disruption could be great news for London, tailored to demands at every price point.”

She hailed the manufacturing technique as a “once in a generation” opportunity to work collaboratively with investors, developers and policy makers, concluding:

“The Mayor is ideally placed  to respond to the report’s recommendations and call to action.”

Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast Consultancy, agreed, saying:

“This timely report sends an unequivocal message to the Mayor of London that now is the time to show strong political leadership to establish a mainstream precision manufactured housing market in the capital. It could underpin ambitions not just for housing, but wider economic growth.”