One of Britain’s major housebuilders is to prefabricate up to a quarter of its homes in a factory, in the latest attempt by the construction industry to tackle the housing shortage.
Berkeley Homes, which builds 4,000 homes a year, is planning to create a facility in Kent next year where builders are to work to produce up to 1,000 houses and apartments annually which will then be craned onto sites.
Another company, nHouse, is setting up a factory in Peterborough with the capacity to build 400 homes a year, complete with light fittings, bathrooms, bookshelves and kitchens. Production is expected to start this month.
It claims it can build a house in 20 days in the factory which can then be erected on site in half a day.
Several other developers, including Legal and General and Urban Splash, have also launched prefab home divisions.
Fears of a shortage of skilled construction workers caused by an aging workforce and an exodus due to Brexit are part of the reason for the revival of prefabrication, which last provided a significant number of homes after World War II.
The government has set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the middle of the next decade.
Despite recent increases in activity, the last annual figure was 190,000.
“We have acquired a 10-acre [7.53 hectare] brownfield site from the Homes and Communities Agency to build a factory for modular homes in Ebbsfleet, Kent. This will have the potential to deliver up to 1,000 homes a year,” a Berkeley spokesman said. “Construction of the factory could begin next year. While the speed of production and the impact on skills and labor are important factors, our real driver is the quality we can achieve with modular housing.”
The nHouse has been designed by the architect Richard Hywel Evans and is made in four modules from engineered pine panels which are transported on the backs of lorries and are then clipped together on site and connected to pre-existing services. Its built-in features include solar panels, a robot vacuum cleaner and even a drone landing pad — looking forward to a time of aerial deliveries.
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