The last decade closed full of political and economic uncertainty. We were in the midst of one of the worst global financial crises ever, the 2010 general election saw the first hung parliament in almost forty years and the construction industry’s output hit historic lows.
Ten years on, and uncertainty continues to loom large. Brexit has plagued construction and manufacturing, there has been little-to-no budge in parliament since the 2017 general election that saw the Conservatives lose their majority, and the construction industry’s output has been at its lowest since the financial crash.
But as we look to the 2020s, much of the weight that has slowed Britain in recent years has been lifted. Boris Johnson’s staggering majority has been met with a positive market response, Brexit is now, as he likes to say, ‘oven-ready’, and with it construction and manufacturing can now once again look to a clearer and perhaps brighter future.
The prime minister successfully redrew Britain’s electoral map, appealing to a whole host of voters located in previous Labour strongholds in the Midlands and North of England, promising significant inward investment to boost industry, infrastructure and housing.
If the government sticks to its promises and repays the trust of voters in the North, there will be a huge opportunity for offsite manufacturing to scale up. Prior to the election, housing minister Esther McVey announced the government’s ambition to create a Northern ‘Construction Corridor’, with a focus on increasing the uptake of factory-built homes. With a clear strategy for investment in modern methods of construction and research & development, the government has the chance to create 80,000 more jobs in the North while significantly speeding up the delivery of housing across the country.
Industry and the government alike should take lessons from the sector-defining deals that took place last year. Our respective deals with Places for People and Homes England demonstrates the confidence boost modular needed, with the private sector, public sector, and housing associations signalling their considerable interest. 2019 will surely be remembered as the year of the modular revolution.
In addition, the government has also pledged to deliver one million new homes over the next five years. Currently, the housebuilding industry doesn’t have the capacity to hit government targets. Therefore, modular manufacturing must be seen as a credible solution in bringing additionality to the industry.
By manufacturing offsite, we’re able to deliver homes in half the time of traditional methods, while all homes that run off our production lines are proven to be twice as energy-efficient as the average UK home. With the UK economy gearing up to meet net-zero targets, greener homes must sit at the top of the agenda as the built environment currently contributes over 45 per cent of the UK’s total carbon emissions.
We’re beginning to make enormous strides in this regard, as we fine-tune our homes, ensuring that we can deliver the zero-carbon homes of the future alongside a range of partners.
However, to take advantage of these opportunities, we must ensure there is a suitably trained workforce capable of delivering factory-built homes. This is why we’re investing heavily in our own onsite training academy, the ilke Academy. Overcoming outdated misconceptions of construction is crucial and what better way to do so than breaking the glass ceiling and showing that housebuilding is a job for everyone.
To meet the government’s housebuilding targets, modular manufacturing will have an enormous part to play. Scaling-up the sector means more money and more factories, but of course, this means more jobs too. New technology promises greater speed, quality and efficiency, without having to cut jobs, as companies begin investing in the future.
Because that is what modular housing is: the future. It is a greener, faster, smarter, technology-driven form of housebuilding. And so we are proud to be leading the sector into the new year and the new decade.