The Growth of Modular Homes: Advatages, Disadvantages and Costs
Due to rising house prices and new construction technologies, there is currently a lot of interest in modular homes. Here we will look at what exactly are modular homes and at what the advantages and disadvantages of this type of design, are.
What Exactly are Modular Homes?
To understand what a modular home is you first need to understand what a conventionally built home is.
Conventional homes are built on their eventual site. They are built using individual building materials such as bricks, stone, concrete, tiles, timber and so on. These individual materials are delivered to the site and are built on location by skilled tradespeople to create what is essentially a hand-built home.
Modular homes are built in a factory and not on their eventual site. They are made up of a number of modules that are manufactured in a modular housing factory. Once completed the individual modules are transported to their final location on vehicles and assembled together to form a house.
Modular homes are built using a technique known as offsite construction. Modular homes are built by what is known as a modern method of construction or MMC.
Modular homes are also known as pre-manufactured modular buildings. They are sometimes also known as volumetric buildings. Modular homes are a more advanced, modern version of what might have been known as prefabricated homes or prefabs, also known as system-built homes in the past.
Modular homes can be flats or apartments in a block as well as houses.
Modular construction is also used to build commercial buildings too and not just modular homes. Offices, hotels and even hospitals are sometimes built using modular construction.
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The Growth in Modular Homes
Modular homes are much more common in some other countries than they are in the UK. Sweden and Japan are leading users of MMC and build large numbers of modular homes annually.
Currently, only about 15,000 modular homes are built each year in the UK. Experts suggest that over 75,000 modular homes per year could be built in the UK, however.
Research by Savills suggests that the UK is likely to be the strongest growth market in Europe for MMC homes.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), or the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as it is now, is establishing a Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Taskforce to increase the delivery of MMC homes in the UK.
The Advantages of Modular Homes
Modular homes are in some ways simpler to build than conventional homes. All the individual materials and individual skills needed to build the modules can be brought together in one place in a factory. Work on the individual modules can be undertaken simultaneously rather than having to wait for one task to be completed before the next can start as is the case with conventionally or traditionally built homes.
Modular homes are generally quicker to build than conventional homes. A modular home can be built on-site in less than two weeks. A conventionally built home typically takes 40 weeks to build.
Modular home construction is less likely to be delayed by skills and materials shortages. Factors such as bad weather, which can severely disrupt building sites in winter, are less likely to delay the manufacture of a modular home because the manufacturing is done indoors.
Modular homes can be cheaper to build than conventional homes because they can be mass-produced on a factory production line and use mass-produced materials. Modular housing factories are usually highly automated and make use of robots, something which isn’t possible on a building site outdoors.
The manufacturing of modular homes may be more efficient and more energy-efficient than more conventional buildings. They potentially have less embodied carbon. There is also likely to be less wastage of materials.
Because of the possible savings in time and cost, modular homes are sometimes suggested as a solution to the housing shortage.
The quality of modular homes tends to be more consistent because high standards of quality control are possible in a factory environment. They tend to have fewer defects or snags once completed.
Modular homes are available in the latest contemporary designs to suit modern living.
The Disadvantages of Modular Homes
Despite the many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to modular homes which need to be considered.
Modular homes are presently only available in a limited range of standard designs and there is limited scope to customise them.
Modular homes may be more complicated to maintain and repair than conventional homes because of the materials and construction methods used. For the same reasons, modular homes may be more difficult to modify or extend.
Modular homes may be more difficult to resell in the future. Many buyers are not aware of what modular homes are and may be wary of buying one or even living in one.
Are Modular Homes 'As Good' as Conventional Homes?
Most experts consider that modern modular homes are just as good as conventionally built homes. Most people living in a modular home will not actually be aware it has been built using modular construction unless they are told.
Modular homes are generally built to high standards of design. They have contemporary layouts which are popular for modern living.
Modular homes are, at the end of the day, built from the same materials as conventionally built homes, such as timber, steel, concrete, brick slips, glass and plastics. Modular homes often make use of more sustainable materials, such as timber, than conventional homes too.
Modular homes meet exactly the same building regulations standards as other homes.
Modular homes are usually built to high energy efficiency standards. They incorporate high standards of insulation and energy-efficient heating systems such as heat pumps. They generally have high EPC or energy performance certificate ratings. Modular homes are often built to zero carbon standards.
Professionally manufactured and built modular homes benefit from the usual NHBC Buildmark 10 year warranty, or similar, as with any other new home.
Are Modular Homes, Mobile Homes?
Modular homes are not mobile homes or park homes. A modular home is a permanent building. Once built on-site a modular home cannot be moved to another location.
Are Modular Homes the Same as Self-Built or Custom Built Homes?
Although it is possible to self build a modular home most modular homes are not self-built. Modular homes are manufactured and built by professional developers and builders.
Modular homes are not what are sometimes described as ‘flat pack’ homes.
Mortgages and Modular Homes
Some people believe that you cannot get a mortgage on a modular home. This is usually because they mistakenly associate them with homes of non-standard construction which are usually difficult and sometimes impossible to mortgage.
Professionally built and assembled modular homes should be mortgageable just like a conventionally built home.
Where Can I Buy or Rent a Modular Home?
Modular homes can be bought and also rented from a number of modular home builders and developers. There are a growing number of modular home developments across the country.
Well known financial services company Legal and General has a 'Modular Homes Division'.
It’s also possible to buy a modular home from IKEA .... sort of. Bloklok is a partnership between IKEA and Skanska.
Some local authorities and housing associations buy modular homes and then rent them out.