UK timber frame housing output has more than doubled in the past six years and is on course to hit 45,000 units in 2007, according to new research on the sector.

A report, published by Cheltenham-based AMA Research, says annual production from prefabricated timber panel and kit manufacturers was around 31,000 in 2003, up from 13,911 in 1998.

It estimates 2004 output to be about 34,250, with a 45% growth expected across all housebuilding sectors in 2004-07. The growth rate in the social housing sector is forecast to be more than 150% during the four-year period, compared to rates of around 20-25% in the private and self-build markets.

AMA describes the short to medium future for timber frame houses as “optimistic”, particularly in growth areas such as London and the south-east, where there is big demand for affordable homes. Government affordable housing investment, including in the Thames Gateway, Ashford and the M11 corridor, is expected to stimulate demand even further.

But the report warns that prefabricated panel manufacturers will need to be convinced of demand before investing further in production capacity.

It says this demand will only come on stream if major builders are convinced there is a public acceptability in the private and social sectors, and that there is no significant cost differential between timber frame and brick block.

It also says the political drive for an increase in off-site manufacturing and modern methods of construction is only one factor determining timber frame’s growth rate in the medium term. Other factors include the acceptability and growth of materials such as steel and concrete.