OFFSITE ON THE AGENDA - Clive Reeves, Market Manager at Knauf.
Various governments have wrestled with the challenge of driving the development of offsite manufacturing. This time looks different: here’s my five top reasons why:
- Homes England: developed specifically to speed up the delivery of new homes, this new body has cash to support its objectives.Lots of cash.The recent investments in Ilke Homes and Urban Splash reflect a determination to ensure that new house-building factories can be viable.
- Housing Act: the 2017 Housing Act has a “presumption in favour of MMC” built in.
- Mark Farmer: this charismatic and passionate advocate of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) has been appointed Government Champion for MMC and will also be spearheading the “Construction Corridor” in the North of England, charged with developing MMC still further.
- The growing influence of the public sector: A recent report by the Royal Town Planning Institute highlighted the enthusiasm of local authorities to take control of their own social housing developments - and we can see an increasing number looking to do so by setting up their own offsite factories.
- The seemingly unified determination of all main political parties to significantly increase the pace at which new houses are built: while simultaneously coping with a growing skills shortage.
Offsite sceptics point to the years immediately prior to the 2008 crash when several large organisations established offsite factories only to close them swiftly when the private sector housing market collapsed.
However, this time around, the situation is different. The current government is keen to evangelise about the opportunities for offsite – witness the fact that pretty much the first actions of both Robert Jenrick and Esther McVey on their appointment as Secretary of State and Housing Minister respectively were to endorse and support offsite factories.
And optimism was definitely the overriding mood of the recent Offsite Expo event at the Ricoh Arena – which we at Knauf used as a platform for presenting our range of products for the offsite market.
Knauf is, at heart, an innovation-driven organisation and we have certainly been ahead of the curve in developing a suite of products for modular and offsite developments.
We’re working with a number of the leading innovators in the offsite arena to road-test (in some cases literally) our solutions, and we anticipate a significant rise in the number of modular homes delivered in the next decade.
Whatever the political climate – it’s hard to debate the conclusion that offsite is heading the housebuilding agenda.