Willmott Dixon’s Tim Carey tells House of Lords inquiry there is not enough traditional resources


The skills crisis has reached a point where there is no alternative to off-site manufacturing, a House of Lords inquiry into whether off-site manufacturing can improve productivity in construction has heard.

Speaking to peers from the science and technology committee, Willmott Dixon national product director Tim Carey said there was simply not enough resources to build houses traditionally.

He said: “The biggest advantage of it [off-site manufacturing] is there isn’t enough capacity out there to deliver projects, especially housing using traditional methods of construction anymore. We are almost past the point of no return.

“We’ve seen it go in cycles with off-site manufacturing and its always reverted back when we’ve gone through an economic down cycle. But I seriously think circumstances are such that we need to be there for good.”

Carey was joined by Rosie Toogood, chief executive of Legal & General Modular Homes and Jamie Ratcliff, the assistant director at the Greater London Authority, who last week authorised long time off-site supporter Mark Farmer’s consultancy firm Cast to produce a research project into standardised homes at the inquiry.

Ratcliff said off-site would become increasingly important in London as the focus shifted to delivering homes on smaller sites.

He said: “We are aiming to see a much greater proportion of homes delivered on small sites which can be very expensive.

“To deliver those through traditional construction you have the same overheads on those sites, where as if you have a replicable design that can be dragged and dropped to lots of locations it can be done much more cost effectively.”

Industry has welcomed the inquiry, with Click Above managing director Aaron Emmett, whose SME development firm specialises in off-site manufactured homes on unusual sites, said new technology was imperative for the industry to solve the housing crisis.

He said: “In a housing shortage where land can be difficult to acquire, we are always seeking alternative and creative ways to deliver new homes.

“This combined with a dramatic shortage in skilled labour in the UK has meant that we have made the transition to off-site building.

“Modular building technology now means we are able to deliver homes quickly and efficiently, minimising on-site disruption to the existing building and waste, as well as superior energy efficiency.”

Last month, his firm received planning permission for a 238-home modular development in Slough, which is set to take just 10 weeks to install onsite.

Meanwhile, housing minister Dominic Raab is set to urge the industry to “embrace the latest innovations” in order to deliver the 300,000 new homes the government has pledged to build by the mid-2020s.

Technologies such as modular construction and the use of virtual reality to help communities understand what is proposed for their neighbourhoods will both be essential tools, Dominic Raab is expected to say when he fronts the Design Quality Conference in London today.

The House of Lords inquiry is set to have subsequent sessions on 1 and 8 May.