Planning committee wants new rules for a ‘Design for Manufacture and Assembly’ approach to London housing

The Mayor of London should set up a kitemark scheme for offsite manufactured housing, according to a report by the planning committee of the Greater London Assembly (GLA).

The ‘Manufactured Housing Design Code’ should be “developed in conjunction with designers, manufacturers and housing providers and specify the key rules for a ‘Design for Manufacture and Assembly’ approach to London housing”, the committee recommended.

The term ‘Design for Manufacture and Assembly’ is used by Laing O’Rourke, which contributed to the report, to describe its factory-based construction methods. Other contributors included housebuilders Barratt and Berkeley, architect Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and consultant Arcadis, 

The GLA report, entitled Designed, Sealed, Delivered, said the code “should be branded as a Mayoral ‘kite mark’ supported by suitable warranty providers” and “would drive a more standardised demand profile which can be delivered by a range of technologies and systems”.

The five-strong GLA planning committee, chaired by Labour’s Nicky Gavron, made five other recommendations to the Mayor in its offsite report:

  • Set up a framework for offsite manufacturing specialists, to attract “a sufficient number of developers and contractors capable of delivering housing using offsite-led solutions which are suitable for the variety of sites and specific challenges that exist in London”.
  • Look at the potential of using GLA and especially Transport for London (TfL)-owned land to stimulate the offsite sector.
  • Announce a further round of the Mayor’s Innovation Fund specifically focussed on offsite.
  • Provide a “clear and strong leadership role” in the development of awareness of offsite’s potential.
  • Look for ways to encourage the use of offsite to achieve wider strategic objectives and examine if there are any policy barriers to wider adoption.

Gavron said: “Today’s offsite manufactured homes are characterised by their high quality, precision engineering, digital design and eco-efficient performance, truly twenty-first century homes. It is clear with strong political leadership, the offsite sector is poised to achieve a step-change in delivery, but it needs coordinated continuity of demand, along with land, policy and funding. The Mayor is ideally placed to respond to this call to action.”

And Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast Consultancy and author of last year’s Farmer Review, said: “Now is the time to show strong political leadership to establish a mainstream precision manufactured housing market in the capital. There is also a great opportunity for the Mayor to align this into his separate ‘Skills for Londoners’ manifesto commitment and the Construction Academy Scheme initiative.”

There has recently been a surge in offsite manufacturing housing schemes in the capital, and plans have gone in this month for the world’s tallest modular building in Croydon. This will be 44 storeys with a planning consultation due to start in October.