Modular homes are constructed in sections in a factory and are assembled on site. They are permanent structures and generally can be expected to last a minimum of sixty years. Modular buildings have been around since the 1960s, with Haus Huf (https://www.huf-haus.com/uk/) being one of the earlier, and still the most well-known, manufacturers. In Britain, they are often confused with the low-quality post war prefabricated housing that was used to solve the housing crisis of the mid-20th century. However, with the technology available to use today, modular constructions bear very little resemblance to their cold and drafty forerunners.
Provided land can be made available and planning permission granted, modular homes should be able to make valuable contributions to solving the housing crisis the UK, and much of the world, are currently experiencing. They can be built anywhere the factory decides to locate, which mean the factory can be built where land values are low. The factory owners are free to locate to suit the availability of the labour supply and the accessibility of distribution of materials. The economies of scale the factory enjoys, mean they are better able to calculate the required amount of materials. It is estimated that currently, factory built modular homes, have up to 90% reduction in wasted materials, then their tradition counterparts, because of the ability of the factory owner to be able to calculate requirements and the economies of scale the factory is able to deploy, as they produce many of same frames continuously.
The advantages of factory-built constructions are reflected in the reduced cost and the amount of time that is saved in the construction of these homes. Many of the manufacturers of modular homes produce a much higher specification, with better energy efficiency and the ability to be more sympathetic to the environment. Many of these building use Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), strong, light engineered panels with high levels of thermal insulation, completely air tight. SIPs are so strong, they are used in the structure of much bigger things than houses, such as the manufacturing of aircraft wings. Due to the climate-controlled conditions of the manufacture of the panels, air quality tends to be better. Manufacturers also find it more accessible to install energy efficiency measures, such as underfloor heating, then installing in the traditional way. These buildings can also be constructed to enable a high level of flexibility where it is easy to disassemble in part and add on extensions to suit a change in requirements or fashion. The costs and specifications of modular building vary a lot. Some of the main manufacturers of these buildings, which are available in the UK, are listed below.
Ecospace (http://www.ecospacestudios.com/) The founders and management of Ecospace are architects who began developing their interpretation of modular homes about 15 years ago. They look to create high quality, sustainable buildings in a short space of time with fixed costs. They claim to be able to tailor the client’s requirements around their budget and their prices for a garden studio starts at £10k.
Scotframe (www.scotframe.co.uk) Clients can select from the Scotframe catalogue or work with the designers and architects at Scotframe to produce a tailor-made package for a bespoke design from the client’s own drawings. Brochure prices start at about £30k for the basic installation but does not include laying foundations or linking up to water and utility services.
Brilliant Box (www.brilliantbox.co.uk) A low cost option offering good insulation and air quality. The boxes are of standard construct which can be reconfigured for different purposes. Boxes can be added for larger living spaces and they are also intended for developer and commercial use.
Potton (www.potton.co.uk) Potton specialise in bespoke self-build and can assist with every part of the process, including planning permission applications. Potton have a show centre, in Cambridgeshire, where prospective buyers can visit a show village of a selection of their homes. For ideas on their bespoke service along with a price guide, follow the link http://bit.ly/2FKcHs6
Vario Haus (variohaus.co.uk) operate at the higher end of the market have a brochure of houses to choose from or work with clients to produce a bespoke service. You can access their price guide here http://bit.ly/2GR1MOq
The UK government has given modular homes support by issuing a white paper which plans to have 100,000 modular constructs built in the UK by 2020. Some of the big players with large investment plans in “modular” are Laing O’Rourke, Legal and General, Berkeleys and Crest Nicholson. However, mortgage lenders are proving to be harder to win over and mortgage arrangements for these homes not offered by all lenders. Some lenders who do, release the money over several stages of the process.