Manufacturing the way to a million homes

Manufacturing the way to a million homes

A million new homes required in the next four years. Builders at capacity, prices escalating and quality dropping. Is this the perfect storm opportunity for off-site manufacture and are manufacturers and designers able to step up?

There have been various new off-site production facilities recently announced, with all parties addressing off-site manufacturing with slightly differing products. With the factory base providing the opportunity for a planned monitoring and quality control regime, and a trained and regular workforce, the benefits of waste reduction, quality and speed can only be expected to improve over time.

Analysis of off-site manufacturers shows the peaks and troughs of supply have always been a real challenge, and this has led to the demise of many. This analysis also shows that the majority of UK manufacturers are relatively small-scale outfits and their capacity can be quickly subsumed. From calfordseaden’s experience, we suggest the solution of continuity of work for manufacturers is to work together to spread the load, share knowledge and collaborate on opportunities and best practice.

On the AMPHION initiative we designed template housing for a consortium of 30 Registered Providers, all signing up to a common specification – imagine the buying power!

However… AMPHION ultimately failed and there were three main reasons for this:

1. Schemes always came with planning permission for non-standard house types.

2. There was only one contractor, who was taken over by another contractor not interested in social housing.

3. There was only one timber frame manufacturer who couldn’t cope with the peaks and troughs or all of the varied house types.

calfordseaden subsequently worked with South Somerset Homes who formed a consortium with other SW based Registered Providers called Advantage SW.

We designed a range of readily manufactured homes, but the lessons from AMPHION had been learned, we had three contractors and three timber frame manufacturers in a partnering arrangement. Using our templates from the feasibility stage we could accurately assess viability. It also assisted the project that calfordseaden was appointed as architect, structural engineer and employer’s agent, allowing for close collaborative working. calfordseaden set the programme and shared out the work to ensure programme, cost and quality were maintained. We were able to improve build times, quality and maintain costs during a time of rising prices.

The Advantage SW model is one we believe, if widened across the industry, could help unlock a productive off site industry. The key to success is in the use of a common platform. We need enlightened architects to work with manufacturers to find a simple, elegant, off-site manufactured homes solution which can be made from any number of systems.

It needs an overarching body like calfordseaden to be the focus for enquiries and an open and shared approach from manufacturers on capacity and price. It needs the industry to work together to agree the best forms of construction for buildability and to demonstrate the benefits in terms of capacity, programme, prelims, cost, waste and environmental impact over on site construction.

The criticism of template housing is that it has no variety. The industry needs to be shown that the variety of design which can be achieved around a common platform and with the skilled use of massing, cladding, roofs and window styles can deliver successful architecture just as well as traditional construction.

For further information please contact John Spence, Partner on 01689 888 222 or jspence@calfordseaden.com