The potential role of modular construction in addressing systemic supply issues

Project summary:

A small number of UK housing providers are now utilizing construction integrated manufacturing (CIM), also known as modular construction, to deliver new homes. The potential for this form of housing provision to speed up and diversify housing delivery is of growing interest among policy makers and wider industry stakeholders (Mayoral Housing Strategy, 2018; RICS, 2018; Letwin, 2018, Farmer, 2016). Indeed, modular construction has the potential to introduce greater levels of productivity, quality, quantity, sustainability, design and diversity to the UK housing system. Despite these advantages, the level of take up and adoption into the market remains limited and the UK now lags behind the US, Germany, Sweden, Japan, France and the Netherlands in utilizing CIM technologies to deliver new homes.

Much of the existing evidence on modern methods of construction is technical and materials-based, focusing on the science of construction technologies, processes and management. Very little evidence exists on examining how modern methods of construction fit into existing residential development practices or what business models and regulatory practices may enhance the uptake of modular home development. It remains unclear what challenges modern methods of development may present to a housebuilding industry built on ‘brick and block’ masonry construction; and, whether housebuilders have the capacity to incorporate radically new construction methods into their wider development practices.

Drawing on an international evidence review, the project will evaluate the potential role of modular construction in addressing systemic supply issues. The project will deliver on the following objectives:

  • What business models and regulatory practices drive the adoption of modular construction?
  • What evidence exists to explain the low uptake of modular construction in residential development practice?
  • What policy and market processes might enhance the adoption of modular construction in the UK housing system?

Team: Dr Sarah Payne (Co-Investigator), Jeff Matsu (Co-Investigator),  Dr Bilge Serin (Research Associate), and Dr Gareth Young (Knowledge Exchange)

Timeline: April 2020 – December 2020

Theme: Economy