BRE supports sector shift to offsite manufacturing by developing product standard

David Gall, Associate Director and Construction Products Sector Lead at BRE, says the quality of pre-manufactured buildings and their performance is paramount to provide consumers – the public and professionals – with the confidence to demand more and quicker to meet the challenges of an undersupply of housing and the skills shortages to deliver them.

Offsite modular manufacturing has the potential to transform the construction sector. Such standardisation can reduce building times, shorten bad weather delays, lessen environmental and waste impacts, and improve productivity, quality and performance.

So, the change is coming, and it is being turbo-charged. In November 2017, five government departments announced a “presumption in favour of offsite construction across suitable capital programmes where it represents best value for money”. In the private sector, Laing O’Rourke, Berkeley Homes, Pocket Living, and Legal & General Homes are among those who have committed to modular expansion.

And while the supply side is gearing up to meet needs, consumer confidence in offsite manufacturing needs developing. There is a ‘prefab perception’, especially among the general public, that remains despite being outdated. Therefore, a focus on the quality and performance of factory fabricated new homes and buildings – such as health care facilities and schools – is critical to drive consumer confidence and demand.

Quality and performance needs to cover structural and durability matters and also include factors such as acoustics, access to daylight and vibration – elements that are vital to residents’ and occupants’ health and wellbeing. The new BRE Product Standard assesses these issues, among others, and assures the public that the modular homes and buildings they are renting, buying or using are built and perform to the highest standards.

In the UK, it is estimated 12 per cent of construction takes place offsite – a market value of £1.5 billion – and has the potential to grow exponentially. The government has set out an ambition for 100,000 new modular homes to be built during this parliament. It is therefore critical that these new pre-manufactured homes, offices and public buildings are well manufactured, constructed and perform to the highest standard lest they under deliver and consequently build up problems in years to come.