Cost comparison: Pros and cons of volumetric construction in housing

Lewisham Exchange lo res

Source: James D Evans /

Pros and cons of volumetric construction, the barriers to widespread adoption, and a cost comparison between a traditional and modular residential tower

01 / Introduction

Historically, the modular housing sector has suffered from lack of consistent demand and a negative public perception. Both have contributed, over several decades, to a shortage of investment and sustained success for manufacturers with sound technologies.

While perceptions may have improved through the emergence of trade bodies promoting best practice in factory solutions, even Make UK Modular was quoted in a recent Sunday Times article as admitting “the sector is in the doldrums” – an article that cited the recent closure of Legal & General’s modular homes division as evidence of that sentiment.

Yet that piece also reiterated the inherent benefits of the modular approach: quality, speed and reliability. Given those attributes, the stark statistics of the UK’s housing need (300,000 units needed per year) and the construction skills shortage (266,000 more workers needed by 2026), surely the time has never been more right for the industrialisation of housebuilding?

This article will not recount the reasons for this state of affairs but rather shed light on companies and projects bucking the trend, offering proof that modular residential buildings can be delivered quickly and relatively competitively. It is supported by a cost comparison between a traditionally built versus a modular 47‑storey residential tower in central London.

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