Offsite manufactured homes

Designed, sealed, delivered

Date published: 
31 August 2017

A new report calls on the Mayor of London to use his powers to kick-start a 21st Century housing revolution - offsite manufactured homes (OSM) are a new industrial sector for the UK, which London could be leading. 

In “Designed, sealed, delivered: The contribution of offsite manufactured homes  to solving London's housing crisis” the Planning Committee calls on Mayor Sadiq Khan to create a standard design code for OSM designating public land, resources and planning powers to incentivise the sector.

London needs 50,000 new homes a year to meet its growing needs. To reach this target, an innovative approach is vital. In the seventies, factory-built housing contributed significantly to supply. The new model of factory manufactured homes is light years away from this. Today’s builders and manufacturers are producing offsite manufactured homes (OSM), characterised by high quality, digital design, precision engineering and eco-efficient performance.

Video: Offsite manufactured homes

Our findings

  • The wide variety of homes that OSM now produces can meet the needs of all Londoners: families with children, older people and single households. The business model is particularly suitable for rental accommodation at all income levels.
  • Their shallow foundations, lightweight construction and acoustic performance lend themselves to constrained sites, such as those with tunnels below or next to railway lines, as well as decking over other sites.
  • OSM buildings can be built and occupied in half the time of conventional buildings, requiring fewer vehicles to transport materials to site, which massively reduces traffic, pollution, noise and disruption, in turn improving local air quality. 
  • OSM homes work for a range of densities, whether on large-scale developments or small infill sites between existing buildings. 
  • As well as the housing challenge, OSM meets many of London’s strategic objectives, in terms of skills, jobs, reducing fuel poverty and carbon emissions.

Recommendations

The report's recommendations to the Mayor of London include:

  • Provide clear and strong leadership in raising the awareness of OSM’s potential.
  • Work towards defining and adopting a Manufactured Housing Design Code.
  • Look at the potential of using TfL-owned land to stimulate the OSM sector.
  • Set up a dedicated OSM-specific procurement framework for London. 

Feedback

Mark Farmer, Chief Executive of Cast Consultancy and author of the Farmer Review, said:

“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.

There is also a great opportunity for the Mayor to bring together different policy recommendations from across the political spectrum and also connect emerging policy in this area to his separate 'Skills for Londoners' manifesto commitment and the Construction Academy Scheme initiative. Future skills in construction may look very different to what we currently see on a building site, and we should be planning ahead for this in London right now."

Christy Hayes, CEO at Tide Construction Ltd, currently the UK’s biggest OSM developer, said:

“This is an extremely welcome report that makes some excellent recommendations for driving demand in offsite construction. The single most important thing needed for companies investing in OSM housing is certainty of demand. If, by becoming a market maker, the Mayor can drive continuous growing demand for offsite manufactured homes, we will see significant investment in this sector which can only be good for everyone.”

Rory O’Hagan, Director at Assael Architecture, the practice behind Essential Living’s award-winning modular build to rent scheme in Greenwich and also Legal & General’s first two build to rent projects, said:  

“Having a standardised design code will increase familiarity, lower barriers to entry for manufacturers and de-risk financing through advocating a design approach that unleashes the full potential of offsite technology. This means revisiting some guidance in the existing London Plan in terms of apartment building design, which just isn’t suited to optimising offsite technology. With strong strategic leadership, the mayor can ensure we get the most out of this exciting opportunity.”

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