London mayor urged to adopt offsite housing to meet housing needs

1 September 2017

London mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to champion offsite manufacturing to help address London’s housing needs.

A report by the London Assembly Planning Committee says offsite manufacturing (OSM) could play an important role in delivering the 50,000 new homes a year that London needs.

“Designed, sealed, delivered: The contribution of offsite manufactured homes to solving London’s housing crisis” identifies benefits such as construction speed, quality control, energy efficiency, fewer deliveries, reduced waste, lighter construction and health and safety.

It also acknowledges that OSM can help to mitigate construction skills shortages and would enable infill sites to be developed.

“Today’s builders and manufacturers are producing offsite manufactured homes, characterised by high quality, digital design, precision engineering and eco-efficient performance,” the committee said in launching the report.

“OSM buildings can be built and occupied in half the time of conventional buildings, requiring fewer vehicles to transport materials to site. Their shallow foundations, lightweight construction and acoustic performance lend themselves to constrained sites.”

Among the recommendations to the mayor is the establishment of a London-specific pre-qualified OSM-led procurement framework.

The report also urges the mayor to develop a manufactured housing design code to drive a more standardised approach and announce funding for OSM.

Report author and assembly member Nicky Gavron said “traditional construction techniques” would go only so far in meeting London’s housebuilding target.

“Offsite manufactured housing is an innovative, forward-looking and exciting way to close the gap. These buildings are high quality and outstanding in terms of performance. Their construction is more environmentally-friendly than traditional construction methods and they are a far cry from their prefabricated predecessors,” she said.

“The lack of a single design standard or mass market demand has held back the sector’s growth. This is a once in a generation opportunity to work collaboratively with investors, developers and policy makers at a time where experts, central and local government are all calling for the same thing to happen.”

Waugh Thistleton Architects, which has designed several CLT apartment blocks in London, were among the 23 industry experts interviewed for the report.

The committee also visited Dalston Lane in Hackney, Waugh Thistleton’s 10-storey development for Regal Homes, said to be the world’s largest CLT building.