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Saving For a Space Ship

Off-Site Construction Key To Unlocking Housing Crisis - 85 Yrs Too Late

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Buckminster Fuller was saying this in the 1930s

Off-site key to unlocking crisis



L&G’s £55m, 500,000-sq-ft site, due to open later this month near Leeds, is fully computerised and automated, and can produce 3,000 homes a year for its build-to-rent schemes. The factory does not require the same level of skill as Elements. “It is much more akin to the manufacture of cars on a production line,” says James Lidgate, head of housing at L&G.

The emergence of modular homes is also a way of hitting house-building targets while dealing with a skills shortage, says Farmer. The shrinking construction workforce, which is partly down to demographics, is likely to be exacerbated by a lower reliance on EU labour after Brexit.

"The modular homes factory is much more akin to the manufacture of cars on a production line"James Lidgate, L&G

“The amount we build with the labour we have needs to improve,” says Farmer. “Productivity has been pretty poor, and we have built in the same way for the last 50-100 years. To offset the critical shortage of labour we need to change the way we construct – and that’s with modular.”

Off-site construction works best with the burgeoning private rental sector, funded by institutional investors. This is because the modules are made on a large scale, designs can be repeated and, crucially, the six- month advantage they have over a traditionally built block, meaning rental income can come in sooner. "Once we have designed a product, we can repeat it, becoming more cost effective as we go," says Simon Underwood, chief executive of Elements.

Creekside Wharf was initially meant to be built traditionally. “Cost inflation in traditional construction has been substantial. Off-site methods are, as a result, more price competitive,” says Martin Bellinger, chief operating officer of Essential Living.

Edited by Saving For a Space Ship

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Construction costs are dwarfed by the cost of development land. Focusing on off-site construction is a complete red herring.

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And as for the lack of skills well, get training, then you've got useful employment (although heaven forbid that takes people away from the call centre industry).

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This was the in thing in the 1920s-40s in the USA, lots of lovely looking art-deco and onwards flat pack build it yourself designs, initially vaguely colonial style with corrugated iron roofs and then onto fifties style bungalows with shingle roofs.

But then as with everything the Brits actually beat the yanks to prefabrication as we had pre-fabricated 'Tin Tabernacle' churches from the 1850s onwards, marketed as 'portable buildings' their popularity went as far as upsetting William Morris (founder of the Arts and Crafts movement) ' who publicly stated they " were spreading like a pestilence over the country."

When I was a nipper I remember that there were plenty of small clusters of prefabricated 'prefab' concrete and asbestos sheet houses on the edges of 1930s council estates that were built after WW2 as well as other smaller groups of tiny little bungalows.

So there is nothing actually new or novel here.

Edited by ChewingGrass

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Construction costs are dwarfed by the cost of development land. Focusing on off-site construction is a complete red herring.

That is often the case, but certainly not always. Given the price of bricks blocks and timber these days, I do wonder how you could replace something like this : http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-43419843.html - a 3-bed semi for £45k - without spending a load more.

And speed of construction also matters IMHO - if you are building with borrowed money, as most self-builders and speculative-builders are, halving the build time is a serious cost saving.

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Simply being able to build more boxes is not the issue, its access of the residents of said boxes to schools, hospitals, roads etc. The post-war building boom didn't just build houses, it built everything.

It seems to me that overpopulation is the issue here, same as it was in the late middle ages before the black death. Many of the social issues we are facing now are very similar to the overcrowding of the 13th century before the black death. Inflation, high land prices, rampant rentier activities etc etc.

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This off-site Vi website compares the industry to uber & air bnb.

I don't see a renamed prefab industry as disruptive tech.  Uber & air bnb rely on the web / smart phones to be disruptive, but they makes little impact on Prefabs.


Sure, the industry needs a big shake up. but as I said at beginning of this thread, Bucky Fullers was banging on about houses built using car assembly methods in the 1930s 




Is offsite construction a threat or opportunity?


The housing shortage, skills shortages and the cumbersome nature of construction could herald an offsite revolution. It could be good news for architects argues Thomas Lane

The accepted wisdom among architects is that offsite construction is inflexible, expensive and results in ugly, identikit buildings. There is some truth in this – designing for a manufacturing process inevitably means some constraints on flexibility, in many instances offsite systems cost more than traditional methods and there are plenty of examples of cheap, nasty-looking system-built projects out there.

But this could be about to change as three big factors converge to drive growth in modern methods of construction.

The first is that we need to build lots of houses quickly to mitigate the housing crisis. Housing minister Gavin Barwell sees offsite as a key part of delivering 1 million new homes by 2020.

The second, linked factor is skills shortages. In his report Modernise or Die, Mark Farmer says a combination of the failure to replace retiring workers and low productivity means construction faces “inexorable decline” unless it embraces MMC. The major housebuilders have stuck doggedly to traditional cavity-wall construction but are weakening in the face of skills shortages. Crest Nicholson recently announced it planned to build 2,000 modular homes a year, with a prototype being produced early next year.

The third factor is that the construction sector is ripe for seismic, disruptive change. We are still delivering buildings in fundamentally the same way we did 100 years ago. This involves fragmented design, delivery and operation with people putting together buildings bit by bit on cold, muddy sites in the pouring rain. No wonder there is a skills shortage.

Uber came along and disrupted the taxi trade, with readily available cars and low fares – the black cab trade is toast unless it radically changes the way it does business. Airbnb is busily disrupting the hotel trade, the high street is threatened by online retail and the main reason we still have landlines is the need for broadband connectivity.

Legal & General has spotted construction’s weakness and decided to use its enormous financial muscle to revolutionise the whole homes delivery model. It is taking end-to-end control of development, design, delivery and in some cases operation, which places it in the same position as the car industry. With this degree of control it can drive out inefficiency and reduce costs. Barwell says other institutional investors are interested in following L&G’s lead.


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On 29/08/2016 at 9:05 PM, XswampyX said:

Drones are the future I think. Small and cheap.



Something quite organic about that. Like birds nesting.


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