19 JUL 2018

The Science of Housing


Today the House of Lords' Science and Technology committee publish their awaited report into Off-Site manufacturing in construction

The report, called Building for Change, can be found here. For all of us interested in housing and off-site manufacturing it is recommended reading.

Benefits of OSM: Their Lordships have done a thorough job of setting out the key benefits of OSM including:

  • "Better quality buildings and infrastructure;
  • Enhanced client experience and faster delivery;
  • Fewer labourers and increased productivity;
  • Creating more regional jobs away from large conurbations;
  • Improved health and safety for workers;
  • Offering building safety advantages—making it easier to ensurebuildings meet quality assurance standards;
  • Improved sustainability of buildings and infrastructure; and
  • Reduced disruption to the local community during construction."

What needs to work better: Their Lordships have done a thorough job of considering, among other things, and in our own words: 

  • the role of off-site manufacturing in meeting housing supply (answer: essential for 300,000 homes)
  • the adequacy of R&D and specific government support to meeting the specific needs of OSM (answer: more to do)
  • whether the business models for traditional procurement and construction enable or hinder the growth of OSM (answer: hinder and need business model change)
  • the readiness of OSM to deliver more (answer: yes)
  • whether technical training and apprenticeships have sufficiently modernised to take account of the digital, business organisational, project skills and other manufacturing needs of OSM (answer: not yet)

Of course, one of the most interesting aspects of this report is that is by the Science and Technology Committee, not a housing, planning, treasury or business committee. More of this to follow we expect, as advanced manufacturing and the digital technology drive different needs across education, skills & training, industry, taxation and many other areas.

Housing is no longer simply about bricks & mortar construction. Off-site manufacturing has great potential to drive the delivery of high quality, fast, customised, cost effective product. But more needs to be done, and quickly, to turn that potential into reality so that we can build the homes the country needs.

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