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Can Modular Housing Unlock the Potential of Brownfield Land?

3rd May 2018

Brownfield survey

Earlier this year, the Campaign to Protect Rural England published a report on the potential of brownfield land for housing in England.

With the country facing a significant housing shortfall, the report contends that unlocking the potential of brownfield sites is key to both solving the housing crisis and securing the future of green belt land.

The government also believes in the potential of brownfield land: the Department for Communities and Local Government produced a report in 2012 – the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – which set out the government’s planning policies for England.

This document named encouraging the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed – that is, brownfield land – as a core planning principle, and encourages local planning authorities to proactively set targets for the use of brownfield in meeting housing demand.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England’s report supports this: its key finding is the assertion that there are suitable brownfield sites available for over a million homes in England – and that many of these sites are in places that people really want to live.

But the section that particularly sparked our interest was the point that if more local authorities considered smaller sites – those that would deliver 10 houses or fewer – this would free up space for an additional 220,000 new homes. We believe that modular housing is the key to unlocking the potential of these brownfield sites.

Why not brownfield?

Brownfield land is the catch-all term for areas within towns and cities that were previously used for industry, and where new buildings can be constructed.

As city living becomes more popular, particularly with young people, and as local authorities undertake large-scale regeneration programmes, these can become attractive areas in which to live and are ripe for redevelopment – and perfect for higher-density building, such as mews-style properties.

However, brownfield land can present barriers to redevelopment, especially where the land is contaminated or the quality of the land is poor.

This is where modular housing presents the ideal solution: the groundworks required for modular homes are less complex than required for traditional build, meaning that sites which might be out of the question for brick-and-mortar properties can still be used for housing.

What’s more, as brownfield sites are usually located in cities and towns, local authorities may be put off redeveloping due to disruption or access issues.  But off-site construction – where most of the building is manufactured in a factory setting – means that the works on-site are kept to a minimum, often a programme of just a few weeks to install the houses, connect to utilities and apply the finishing touches.

And access is no issue: at Elite, we’re used to working around tricky spaces, often craning modular units into place over existing buildings or walls.

Sustainable solutions

As well as listing a preference for using brownfield sites, the NPPF has identified supporting the transition to a low carbon future and encouraging the use of renewable resources.

Off-site construction has proven sustainability benefits, from the use of renewable materials such as PEFC or FSC-certified timber to the reduced number of deliveries to site.

There is also plenty of scope for introducing ‘green’ elements into the modular house itself, from triple-glazed windows, triple-layered wall insulation, solar PV roof panels to generate electricity and rainwater harvesting systems.

Our flexible approach to design means we can meet the planning regulations required by different local authorities: there are no ‘off the shelf’ modular housing products at Elite, and our bespoke service allows us to meet any brief.

With an abundance of brownfield sites available, and with modular construction offering the ideal solution to many of the potential issues associated with these sites, we believe that bespoke modular housing can play a significant part in alleviating the housing shortage in England and the rest of the UK.

If you want to find out how our eco classroom or modular housing solution could create more space for you, please contact us today.