Is Offsite the Answer for House Building?

In an extract from an article first published in Inside Housing we look at the potential for offsite construction to help solve the housing crisis.

In an extract from an article first published in inside Housing we look at the potential for offsite construction to help solve the housing crisis.

Decades of undersupply has seen a housing shortage lurch into a full-blown housing crisis in recent years. But social landlords are leading the rebuilding effort. For example, housing associations have committed themselves to £8.7bn of development spend in the period July 2017 to July 2018, according to the Homes and Communities Agency's most recent quarterly survey. However more needs to be done, with housing supply not predicted to match housing need in the near future. Although there isn't a silver bullet, one potential solution that could enable the sector to make headway in housing delivery is offsite construction.

The Government's Fixing our Broken Housing Market White Paper, published earlier this year, said that offsite manufacturing techniques could be a catalyst for change in the sector. Inside Housing and LHC sought to find out to what extent modern methods of construction (MMC) are being embraced by social landlords. We launched a survey of housing professionals, asking a series of questions about their organisations' approaches to offsite construction. A total of 96 respondents took part and the results paint an interesting picture.

First, it is clear that offsite delivery is still in its infancy across the sector. Only 41% of respondents said that their organisations were planning to develop any homes in the next 12 months utilising methods of offsite construction. Nearly a third (30%) said their organisation's development programme in the next year would contain between 1-10% homes built using offsite construction measures, but few (11%) were planning to develop more than 10% of their total pipeline using MMC. Given that 61% of respondents plan to build more than 100 homes in the next year, it is still only a relatively small number of homes which are being developed using offsite methods.

But that picture looks set to change during the next few years. When asked whether their organisation was planning to increase the number of homes it builds using offsite construction within the next three years, 59% of participants said they were, with just 16% stating their organisation had no plans to do this. By 2020, 51% of respondents expect their organisations to be developing between 1-30% of their total homes using offsite, whereas a further 10% expected to be delivering between 31-100% of their homes using offsite construction. So how can the sector start to promote greater use of offsite technologies? We asked participants what the barriers were to their organisation taking up offsite methods of construction.

A lack of information and understanding about offsite was cited by almost half (48%) as an obstacle. "People believe they've got a lack of information and don't know how to go about it," explains John Skivington, director at LHC. "I think a large proportion of those people who aren't planning to build with offsite would be keen if they were clearer about it."

If you're a contractor exploring off site construction, or want to find out more please contact and if you want further information on the survey and ideas explored in this piece then contact John Skivington on