The debate on off-site manufacturing is heating up

23 August 2018

Last month, I commented on the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee report on off-site manufacturing and, in particular, on the fact that the report pressed both the government and the construction industry to do more to encourage the up-take of off-site manufacturing (click here to see this post).

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee has, however, reached a very different conclusion. In a recent report on heatwaves and climate change, the Committee said that "Modular homes are not resilient to heatwaves, and should not receive support from the Government."

The Committee's report recommends that the Building Regulations be changed to prevent the construction of new buildings that are prone to overheating and, in this respect, expressly calls for a halt on the government providing financial support to modular housing.

This has, unsurprisingly, provoked a strong reaction from the off-site manufacturing sector and its supporters. The basic message from them is that off-site manufacturing - much like traditional construction - includes a broad range of materials and technologies, and that through good design (particularly in relation to ventilation) potential issues with overheating can be addressed.

In a statement published in response to the Committee's report, Buildoffsite, the Offsite Hub and Oxford Brookes University concluded that:

"The off-site community is keen to demonstrate its capability, resilience and user comfort on a level playing field with traditional construction. The aim is to work in parallel and preferably partnership with traditional materials and construction methods; to provide the additional capacity and quality the sector needs."

Clearly, the success or otherwise of off-site manufacturing will depend on a large number of factors, which include its environmental credentials and the resilience of its output. As the Committee's report and the subsequent industry reaction shows, these are not straightforward matters.

"Modular homes are not resilient to heatwaves, and should not receive support from the Government."