The Great Machine to Deliver a New Age of Housing

Once upon a time, in the UK there was a housing shortfall, believe it or not! A mighty, siege on our nations resolve and resources meant that a wise and strong, pipe smoking Prime Minister called Winston Churchill made a public speech, declaring that:

“Factories have been assigned, the necessary set-up is being made ready, materials are being ear-marked as far as possible, the most convenient sites will be chosen, the whole business is to be treated as a military evolution handled by the government with private industry harnessed to its service.”

He said this in response to around 1 million homes being destroyed or damaged because of the Second World War. The factories that Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill referred to were factories to produce pre-fabricated emergency housing. These factories were deployed with the efficiency and vigour of a government with a wartime mentality. Economies of scale, mass production, a great machine to deliver an emergency housing shortfall.

Despite building 156,622 emergency housing, later referred to as “post-war pre-fab”, the UK still faced a huge housing shortfall. A new form of construction called Pre-cast Reinforced Concrete (PRC) was introduced from around 1945 to 1955 to meet the shortage of permanent housing and bring the cost of housing down. During this time 1.5 million homes were completed. Different builders around the time marketed different model houses such as the Airey, the Cornish, the Wates, the Unity, the Reema, the Woolaway and the Next Step. All the buildings of this permanent pre-fab era had a 60-year life expectancy and form the landscape and vernacular of many of the council estates around the suburbs of the UK.

We are now amidst a similar level of housing short-fall due to population growth and urban movement. Our housing crisis is compounded by the large house builders who constrain the production of housing by land-banking. With a variety of measures being explored and implemented at government level, there is, again, a bubble of manufactured housing about to encompass us.

This time around there are different market dynamics at play. There is a demand for higher performing housing in terms of CO2 emissions and thermal performance to contribute to our national and global ambitions to lower greenhouse gases and stop climate change. Unlike the post-war PRC prefabs there are now a much wider range of solutions on the market. Furthermore, digital engineering and design techniques have advanced to such a level that they easily enable pre-manufactured construction methods.

We are starting to see a new wave of house builders using offsite construction. A new wave of modular and panelised building systems with a whole host of new, private company brands behind them. Granted, we don’t believe that the top tier house builders will change the way they build but the next housing revolution is certainly something they should worry about! At Modularize we are very proud to have worked on many of the most ground-breaking new building systems in this very exciting segment of the construction sector.

We see the future of UK house building being gradually populated with a range of strongly branded house types and home builders. In many ways, this new breed of hot-shot house builders will echo the history of pre-fabricated housing we’ve had in the past. This time though, the houses are a different breed. They are precision engineered, filled with impressive technology, surpassing all building regs and are truly desirable homes of the future.

We promise you that the diversity of systems entering the market will be the most exciting change in house building and home buying that these fair isles have ever seen!