Modularity in Building Houses: A Possible Revolution?

Richard Evans is the Chairman of the CIPHE’s Education and Training Group. In this issue, Richard covers the housing shortage and a possible solution in modular housing.

As we all know, the problems associated with the acute shortage of housing in this country, particularly with social housing, continue. In spite of successive governments’ statements to address and resolve the situation, all have failed. Currently one consequence of this issue is the increasing number of homeless people. One possible solution that is being proposed is a greater move to manufactured modular houses. Interest is growing in this development as the advantages are being highlighted with a number of large companies beginning to invest in the process.

Even though the associated costs are much the same as those for traditional build, modular manufacturing has many advantages over traditional methods of construction and some are given below:

  • The time it takes to build traditionally is approximately six months whilst to construct a modular house is three to four months.
  • Modular construction is not affected by the weather.
  • The units can be easily transported to remote locations – again reducing the overall cost.
  • The pre-constructed modules mean that significant quality and control issues have already been checked and this streamlines inspection regimes during the construction process.

The consequences of this approach will be significant for the trades including the plumbing profession. This in turn will greatly impact on colleges and other training organisations involved in preparing people for the various trades. Modular construction will significantly impact on all the professional trades involved in creating houses including the training of the professionals themselves. Colleges and training providers will have to radically reform their programmes to meet the significant challenges that these developments will create. Many see these developments as a revolution.

This is an exciting development but the colleges and training providers need to be helped and supported by the manufacturing companies and professional bodies.

In addition, the various trades must collaborate more. Equally important college management needs to recognise these challenges and in turn support the lecturers and trainers by providing adequate resources particularly for training and its financing. The training programmes for lecturers and trainers will need major reforms as will those for students wishing to enter the industry. One significant change will concern the various trades working together in this new environment including closer collaboration between the professional bodies representing the trades.

I would be interested to hear from lecturers about how they see the possible impact on their current practices as modular manufacture increases in scale.

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