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London mayor to fund toolkit for offsite homes

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London mayor Sadiq Khan is to fund a developer’s toolkit for building offsite homes in a bid to speed up housebuilding.

Khan is investing £50,000 in the project, which will produce a set of tools and guidance to boost the delivery of precision manufactured homes (PMH) in the capital.

The homes are either entirely or partially constructed in factories using digital technology and precision engineering before being assembled quickly on site.

The mayor’s decision follows recommendations in a London Assembly report, and is aimed at meeting targets to build 65,000 new homes a year over the next decade.

The mayor’s office said: ‘While traditional methods of construction will continue to play a vital role in home-building, it will not be possible to increase output to the necessary extent by relying on traditional methods alone.’ 

The project will be led by Mark Farmer of residential consultancy Cast and architect Bryden Wood, and will produce a set of design principles explaining how to make building offsite homes ‘significantly simpler’.

The information will be passed on to developers and housing associations to help them order standardised factory-made components.

Offsite homes have been touted as one of the answers to London’s acute housing crisis, and manufacturers are keen to shed the stigma often associated with post-war prefabs. 

The new-look modular homes are characterised by quality digital design and eco-efficient performance and are ‘light years away’ from their prefab predecessors, according to London Assembly member Nicky Gavron.

The Labour politician, who authored the planning committee report, said the sector was a ‘forward-thinking’ way to address the demand for housing but had been held back by the lack of a single design standard.

Off-site manufacturing has been adopted in projects by major architects, such as Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ PLACE/Ladywell in south-east London.

Anthony Thistleton, of Waugh Thistleton Architects, a London-based practice that has worked on a number of prefabricated schemes, said that while standardisation would occur in time, the need for change was ‘critical’.

He added: ‘We are keen proponents of bringing in the efficiencies and processes that have revolutionised manufacturing over the last century and are excited to be working on a number of PMH initiatives.’

He called the mayor’s decision ’encouraging’, adding: ‘If we are to rapidly make up for the lost decades of research and development in housebuilding we need outside drivers and immediate investment.’

Work on the project is due to start immediately and is set to be completed by the autumn. 

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