United Kingdom, Sweden and Japan Meeting Social Purpose With Off-site Manufactured Housing

The demand for high-quality affordable sustainable housing in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic is ever increasing, not only in the United States but also in other modern countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan.

The U.S. off-site manufactured housing industry is well established, whereas the concept of home building within a factory in other countries is a relatively new concept. The following is an overview of the similarities and differences in off-site construction in the United States and the United Kingdom.


United Kingdom

Building off-site has helped us overcome those challenges of the pandemic and keep meeting our social purpose. The UK government should help grow this sector, writes Tina Bernard,  Chief executive of Watford Community Housing Trust in an INSIDE HOUSING commentary.

Amid shortages of skilled labor, rising material costs, and a need for 345,000 new homes per year, it is a challenging time for those in the UK housing industry.

Indeed, with changes to building regulations indicating that new build homes must produce around 30% lower CO2 emissions than current standards, and supply chain issues caused by the ever-present spectre of Britain’s exit from the EU, housing providers have had to adapt or die.

In order to manufacture housing in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner, the UK housing sector must look to increase the adoption of off-site manufacturing techniques and proactive partnership working.

At Watford Community Housing, we have utilized off-site manufacturing on more than 30 homes, with the express target of 50% of our developments to use factory-built housing by 2015.

We’ve also seen the educational benefits of both off-site manufacturing and partnership working come to the fore, as Stewart Milne has partnered with West Herts College to offer a new vocational apprenticeship programme in sustainable methods of construction.

Throughout the pandemic, our use of off-site manufacture has been key to continued development. Factory automation meant that construction could continue at a time when COVID was making it difficult for traditional construction crews to continue working. Also, the precise nature of modular and timber frame building meant that we could accurately forecast costs when additional raw material would have proven expensive and difficult to obtain.


“By constructing large elements of these homes in a fixed facility, on-site waste was all but eliminated and we greatly reduced other noise”


As of June 2020, the proportion of new homes built in the UK using this technique was estimated at somewhere between 6% and 10%, but over the coming decade, I would expect this to grow quickly.




“To meet the demand for new homes and comply with strict regulations around emissions, it is vital that UK housing providers follow in the footsteps of countries such as Sweden and Japan”


At least 45% of all housing in Sweden is now produced using some form of off-site manufacturing. Its state mortgage provider, SBAB, predicts that Sweden will have solved its housing shortage within five years.

Japan, too, is manufacturing as many as 180,000 new modular homes each year, equivalent to roughly 20% of all new housing. Its use of factory-built homes has proven so successful that they are even building the UK’s biggest off-site village of more than 400 homes.

Recent Posts