Offsite manufactured housing offers an innovative way for housing associations to build more homes

The Accord Local Homes factory demonstrates how we can develop the capacity to build more high quality homes at lower cost

Alan Yates is Executive Director of Regeneration at Accord Group

Alan Yates is Executive Director of Regeneration at Accord Group

9 November 2016

The Government has committed to increase housebuilding from 130,000 by at least another 100,000 homes per annum.

Their interest in Offsite Manufacturing follows the publishing of the Farmer Review of UK Construction. This report, produced by the Construction Leadership Council, considers how to reduce the vulnerability of the construction industry to skills shortages and looks specifically at the potential role for offsite manufactured housing in the private rented sector.

The Accord Local Homes factory demonstrates how we can develop the capacity to erect more high quality homes at lower cost than traditional building, with added advantages of reduced waste, fewer defects, speed of construction, fewer vehicle movements and lower running costs.

The Government has been interested in this agenda for some time, as evidenced by visits from former Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP – who witnessed a pair of semi-detached houses being erected on site in a day – and more recently from current Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell MP, who visited the factory and one of our live sites. Prior to that, I attended round table discussions with Kris Hopkins MP and a number of manufacturers and developers, and he was particularly keen to see an increase in offsite manufacture following the publication of the Offsite Housing Review by the Construction Industry Council in 2013. This report suggested that when a step change in housebuilding is required, this offers an opportunity to do things differently – in fact in order to meet higher build targets you are compelled to do things differently.

For Accord, we had been importing a highly insulated panellised system from Norway and with our own in-house design team now familiar with the product, five years ago we decided to move into offsite manufacturing ourselves. Feedback from our tenants has been great and with such low running costs they are better able to keep warm and healthy – and of course it leaves more money to help pay the rent, so it makes good business sense for a landlord to build these efficient homes too.

Having the ability to design and manufacture our own homes, the last piece of the jigsaw was to erect them. We embarked on this with the establishment of a Construction Team two years ago and the net result is that we are now building higher quality homes for a lower cost than traditional build – a good example of value for money.

In addition to selling homes from our factory to other housing associations and councils, Accord has now developed a replicable ‘factory in a box’ concept that would result in more factories being established across the country. We can support other developing organisations to quickly move into offsite manufacturing, gaining the benefit of the ten years' work we have put into developing this concept.

The potential market is huge and with the L&G factory in Leeds reportedly able to manufacture 3,000 new homes per year, that leaves another 97,000 still to be manufactured in order to provide the 100,000 additional homes required to meet government aspirations.

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