Modern prefabs like those in PLACE/Ladywell, Lewisham, might be the answer to London’s housing shortage ©Morley von Sternberg, courtesy of RSHP
Modern prefabs like those in PLACE/Ladywell, Lewisham, might be the answer to London’s housing shortage ©Morley von Sternberg, courtesy of RSHP

Call for London prefab procurement framework

4 September 2017

A committee of the London Assembly has called for a new procurement framework for prefabricated homes.

The assembly’s Planning Committee has published a report that says prefabs, or off-site manufactured homes (OSM), could be the answer to London’s housing shortage. The capital needs about 50,000 new homes a year to meet growing demand but it is only reaching between 50% and 60% of its target.

The committee called on the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to establish a London-specific procurement framework to attract developers and contractors in order to establish a “pre-vetted and solid supply chain”.

OSM is a method of housebuilding where generic components or modules are manufactured in a factory and shipped for assembly on site. This type of house can take half the time of a standard construction and was used widely in the 1960s to rebuild homes after the war.

Nicky Gavron, chair of the planning committee, said: “Loved or loathed, the prefabs and system-built blocks of the past contributed significantly to supply.

“Construction within a factory environment achieves quality control that ensures fast builds and lengthy lifespans… Once delivered to site they can be up in a matter of days or weeks, a vital advantage given the acute scale of demand London faces.”

A framework could support both the private and public sector in constructing modern OSM homes.

The report said: “This framework could encompass both developer-led models that are capable of providing turnkey solutions on public sites and also have a contractor-led component which registered providers or private developers could use to buy OSM-led construction solutions for use on land they control and which meets all necessary procurement governance rules.”

The report recommended the mayor create a standard design code for OSM manufacturers, which could be built into the framework alongside commitments to build replicability, compatibility and inter-operability into the design of OSM components.

A framework could also build confidence in clients – for example housing associations – and lenders to invest in OSM construction by demonstrating due diligence had been done on contractors.

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