Throughout history, the property and construction sector has been one of the slowest to embrace new technology. Visit a building site today and you’re still likely to see the delivery of Roman roads, sewers, and dwellings, which form huge components of how we design and build today. One thing for certain is that these structures have stood the test of time. However, how can we embrace new technologies and other evolving industries, to plug a labour shortage and speed up delivery without compromising quality and durability?

So, how can modular building work as a solution to these issues, and what does this mean for your recruitment strategies? 

Modern methods of construction in UK housebuilding

The UK construction sector is a hugely important component of the UK’s overall economy, with ONS data stating that in the South East, London and the East of England, construction-related roles contributes 41.1% of total employment. Despite this, the sector has continually struggled to meet demand, particularly within housebuilding. This has proven to be a hotly-debated topic in government, with housing provision forming a key part of party manifestos in the most recent elections. The shortfall in the delivery of new houses has led to an imbalance in supply and demand. This has now resulted in rising house prices and claims from many circles that it’s becoming impossible for people to get onto the property ladder.

What is modular housing and how does it work?

Modular housing is a construction method using prefabrication, which is repeated into sections known as modules. These modules are constructed off-site, usually in factories on a production line, then moved to the relevant construction site to be assembled. One of the main advantages of modular housing is the speed at which houses can be built. Using this method, builders can prefabricate a three-bedroom house in a factory within a week and the subsequent installation on-site can be completed in just a few days. This would shave months off of the construction time it takes to build a similar house through traditional build methods, which at many major UK housebuilders can take on average between 16-24 weeks.

Another consideration of modular housing lies at the door of an increasingly dwindling skilled labour force, where many skilled trades are at a premium. Moving production into a factory and embracing machinery and other technologies adds a further element of quality control. It could be argued that precision machinery reduces defects and the subsequent snagging issues many UK residents face when moving into their new home.

Key advantages

  • Speed
  • Less waste
  • Quality control
  • Lower carbon footprint

Key disadvantages

  • Limitations in customisation
  • Repetition of mistakes
  • Difficulty transporting modules to site
  • A lack of understanding about modular housing can cause decreased customer confidence
  • Some financial institutions may not offer mortgages against modular homes

Modular housing and the effects on recruitment

It’s plain to see that the UK is not currently delivering the volume of new houses that are required to meet demand. The government aims to deliver circa 300,000 per year by the mid-2020s, and the potential emergence of modular housing as a viable method of production opens a new emerging recruitment market at all levels. What’s more, these new jobs could range from entry-level positions through to senior executive roles. Traditional housebuilders who are expanding into this market may need to be more open to the candidate pool they typically look to recruit from, as experience within engineering and manufacturing would add significant value to their business.

Furthermore, to make this a long-term and feasible option, training up a skilled workforce is paramount. Apprenticeships should be a key area of focus for businesses entering this emerging market as they would provide an opportunity for people to gain theoretical and practical knowledge ready to embark on a successful career within construction.

If you are interested in hiring top professionals to your property and construction business, please get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants for a confidential discussion. Alternatively, if you are looking for a new career opportunity, make use of our Job Match tool to discover what doors your skills and experience can open for you.

Michael McGlaughlin
Managing Consultant, Michael Page Property & Construction