Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Driving Force towards Prefabrication Housing in the UK

The Egan Report “Rethinking Construction” published in July 1998 by the Construction Task Force, has concluded that UK construction is in need to concentrate towards a more efficient and improved output quality. The construction industry is to focus on improving client’s satisfaction. This can be done by cutting the construction costs, increased in quality of construction, and moving towards sustainable construction with emphasis on prefabrication and off-site assembly. As being cited in the DTI report (prepared by Phillipson, 2001), The Egan Report also suggested that the construction industry is in need to become more innovative to streamline the construction process and to develop partnering between contractors and suppliers in moving towards a dispute free industry.

Since the publication of the Egan Report, prefabrication has then been identified as a major way forward in delivering these required improvements (Phillipson, 2001). Major impact caused by the Egan Report has included a range of initiatives such as Movement for Innovation (M41) and the Construction Best Practice Programme.

Currently, the UK construction industry is applying prefabrication to a wide variety of forms and applications. This ranges from the simple prefabricated site hut, which has been a long established application, up to volumetric units that can be delivered to site to integrate into the structure of the building.

At the beginning of the 21st century, UK has been predicted in need for about four million and 225 thousand new homes by 2016 (DETR 1998a, Cavill 1999). The issues include increasing the current density of housing developments from 30 houses to 50 houses per hectare, curbing carbon dioxide emissions from water and space heating without eliminating a comfortable internal temperature in the particular house, reducing the destruction of Greenfield land and building sustainable houses which allow the occupants to feel part of a community (DETR 1999, DETR 1998b).

This concern has lead to DETR producing a Housing Green Paper “Quality and Choice: A Decent Home for All” in April 2001 which identified prefabrication as a way forward in providing affordable housing, and have considered ways in which more resources could be used in schemes that use prefabrication.

Modularisation or modular design has been described as the key to prefabrication (Loetterle, 2004). Modular design refers to construction using standardised units or standardised dimensions. Modular buildings do not have to be built using prefabrication techniques, but they are usually involved.