Good design is at the heart of our aim to create sustainable communities across the country.

That’s why I believe that modern methods of construction, such as off-site manufacture, have an important part to play in delivering our £38bn sustainable communities plan. With demand for housing on the increase, the need to provide high-quality places that will serve the local community and stand the test of time is intensified. We need places that have life to them, where the design helps create vibrancy - what I call the “wow” factor.

OSM can help to increase the speed and efficiency of housing provision without sacrificing design quality. It also offers build quality and choice for consumers, thanks to a wide range of materials and innovative layouts.

In 1998 I asked the Construction Task Force, led by Sir John Egan, to look at how the quality and efficiency of UK construction could be improved. The report told us that there was a lot we could learn and a lot that we could do “entirely differently”.

Some were sceptical, but six years on we are starting to see what “entirely differently” means. Up and down the country we are seeing an increasing number of impressive, innovative developments – many of which are featured in this supplement. This is encouraging, but we want to see the rest catch up with the best.

We must focus on building confidence and quality for the future rather than rehashing past mistakes. Here, Germany serves as an important example. The first-generation prefabricated houses were known as “Pappdeckelhäuser” – literally, “cardboard houses”. However, such has been the dedication in Germany to improving quality that a recent survey showed 95% of respondents believed OSM technology to be both trustworthy and a practical and sensible way of building, and 82% would consider buying a home built in this way. The key to success in Germany is investment combined with a commitment to a continuously improving product.

The likes of manufacturer Space4, whose factory I visited last year, are fantastic examples of what can be achieved. Space4’s database already allows customers

to select from hundreds of different designs. And to think that some people argued that building in the factory would limit choice!

I am convinced that the wider use of modern processes is the key to success and will help us to produce better quality houses and buildings that people want to live in and use, while also offering better value for money. Places that meet the market’s demands must be well built, well designed and environmentally friendly, without costing the earth. This is what we must aim for.


Offsite supplement Oct 2004