Volumetric construction could solve housing crisis

Robert Scammell 10 April 2018 (Last Updated April 10th, 2018 15:04)

A shift to volumetric construction, an offsite factory-based prefabrication building method, is the solution to solving the UK’s housing crisis, according to a study by architectural practice Ackroyd Lowrie.

Volumetric construction could solve housing crisis
Volumetric construction sees modules constructed and lifted in as a completed unit. Credit: Dan Klar via Flickr

A shift to volumetric construction, an offsite factory-based prefabrication building method, is the solution to solving the UK’s housing crisis, according to a study by architectural practice Ackroyd Lowrie.

The white paper states that modern offsite construction, in which entire blocks of flats are built in factory conditions in a series of self-supporting ‘volumes’, transported to site and stacked into place, could offer a 30-60% time saving over traditional methods.

These savings could offer a cost-effective method to ensure that the 300,000 required affordable homes are delivered to UK residents by 2020. Bespoke windows, kitchens and brickwork can also be pre-installed on a production line.

Ackroyd Lowrie director and founder Oliver Lowrie said: “If there was any political will to solve the housing crisis, it would be by building faster.

“Offsite construction is objectively the fastest way to build and results in properties with fewer defects. Innovations in the industry mean that developers can create completely bespoke solutions for sites of all sizes, for clients with virtually any preferences.”

Despite prefabricated homes gaining a reputation for being repetitive and low quality because of contemporary technologies available in the post-war period, modern factories can achieve bespoke designs using high-quality materials and use modern technologies such as 3D computer modelling and virtual reality during the design process.

The paper also claims that houses built in factory conditions have a higher quality and are less likely to have defects, with projects having an average of 75% fewer defects.

Chair of the Old Oak and Park Development Corporation, one of London’s key regeneration bodies, Liz Peace CBE, said of the research: “The house building industry is not renowned for being particularly innovative, but in offsite, volumetric housing we are confronted with something that could […] revolutionise the way we build homes and make a significant dent in the housing numbers we so desperately need.

“As an industry, we cannot let this opportunity pass us by. This is why we need the call to arms the Ackroyd Lowrie White Paper offers—to inspire, to inform and most all to make things happen.”

There are currently 15,000 volumetric homes built in the UK each year.