Sector - Sustainability

Are Pre-Fabricated homes the answer to the million homes conundrum?

In September of last year, the Government announced headline-grabbing, but ultimately ambitious, plans to build a million new homes in England by 2020. The National Housing Federation revealed the extent of the housing crisis, suggesting that only half of the required new homes are currently being built.

With an estimated 245,000 new homes necessitated every year, the current model is leading to many families struggling to afford a permanent home – especially first time buyers. This has led to speculation that adopting the German model of increased reliance upon pre-fabricated homes could help the Government achieve their 2020 target, and help redress England’s housing crisis.

The quicker build time and lower construction costs of developing and installing pre-fabricated homes can help house the families currently crying out for new family homes.

The Government are currently working on a number of schemes to encourage first time buyers to take their first steps onto the property ladder. Initiatives such as lower deposits programmes and the Help-to-Buy ISAs are intended to make buying a property more affordable – however a shortage of available homes could prove to be a stumbling block.

Government schemes and grants could increase demand for homes, but if the supply does not grow in tandem, it could effectively lead to developers continuing to hike up house prices – leaving even more first time buyers without the opportunity to invest.

The German construction industry is perhaps better suited to an influx of first time buyers thanks to their advanced adoption of pre-fabricated homes. Often considered to be a leader in innovating comfortable, attractive and efficient pre-fabricated houses; the technology and number of dedicated factories are far greater in Germany than the UK.

Throughout the country, firms have set up to create robust, stylish, safe and warm pre-fabricated homes which can be used to house the growing German population.

This gap between German and UK pre-fab construction industries is perhaps best exemplified in the Channel 4 show, Grand Designs, wherein presenter Kevin McCloud always seems to be jetting off to Germany when the episode features a pre-fabricated house. This demonstrates an insufficient supply of pre-fabricated housing currently available in the UK.

Joerg Bauer is chief of Bauer Holzbausysteme, a small family-run business specialising in building pre-fabricated homes on a site close to the borders of Austria and Switzerland. He explains how increasing demand for pre-fab homes is affecting his business:

“We are about to introduce a double-shift at our plant in Neukirch, open a bigger factory building in nearby Lindau and increase our staff from 40 currently to 60.”

An effective increase in the number of homes in England will undoubtedly have additional knock-on effects for the construction industry – with greater need for increased infrastructure and support.

Paul Manchester, Director of Manchester Safety Services, suggests: “With an increasing population, there will be additional need for improved infrastructure around towns and satellite settlements in which new home owners will reside. With hundreds of miles of roadworks on UK roads, there is already the need to improve the nation’s roads and this will only intensify as the population grows.”

But the first step for accommodating a rapidly growing population is ensuring that everyone has a roof over their head.