We need a change in attitudes to prefabricated housing

The word 'prefab' has an unfortunate ring to it in this country. It suggests a below average standard of housing. But should it? A lot of prefabricated housing went up in Britain immediately after the war due to the number of homes flattened by bombing and the subsequent housing shortage. Slum areas which should have been replaced decades earlier were finally being cleared away.

We talked to a man who grew up in one of those prefabs – in his case, two stories (concrete cladding below, steel cladding above) in Newcastle upon Tyne. He had no regrets about the place that was his home until he was eighteen.

‘I knew that people said bad things about those houses. They called them tin cans – sometimes they called them worse than that. And when I passed the 11 plus and went to the grammar school, I was aware of being looked down on by some of the pupils from places like Jesmond. I probably got into a few fights that I shouldn’t have because of that. But, actually, I was the lucky one.'

Are prefabs the solution to the housing shortage?

'Those houses had been imported from Scandinavia, and the Scandinavians know how to survive cold weather. We had insulated walls when that was unheard of in this country. We had radiators in every room, and the water was heated by a back boiler behind the fireplace in the sitting room.'

‘Years later, I was talking to someone about my age who’d been brought up in a well-to-do middle-class home in a London suburb and she talked about how cold it had been every winter, how they huddled close to the fireplace, hung curtains against each door to stop the drafts, hated going upstairs and could only have a bath once a week because the water had to be heated specially. That last bit was the thing I thought was worst, because apart from being as warm as toast when I went to bed, I had a bath pretty well every night because we had constant hot water. So the reality was that I’d been better off than her – but no one saw that at the time, including me.’

It’s worth bearing this story in mind, because every time that word “prefab” is used, you can almost hear the sneers. It’s an attitude that says, “I suppose someone has to live there, but I’m glad it isn’t me.” And, as we’ve said, it’s nonsense. A prefabricated home was built in a factory – so everything fits together perfectly, and you can take the quality for granted because instead of bricklayers, roofers and carpenters working outside in whatever the elements decided to throw at them, it’s all been done in a dry, secure, climate-controlled factory. Why would you build a house any other way?

We’re looking at this issue now because there’s a government commitment to build a million new homes by 2020 and, so far, the government's missing their target by a country mile. There’s a £3 billion government fund, and Housing Minister Gavin Barwell is talking about spending some of it on the construction of 100,000 prefabricated homes.

The RICS says that, without turning to innovative construction methods, we just don’t have the capacity to build a quarter of a million homes in a year, which is the current target. And L&G plans a factory near Leeds that would be the biggest prefabricated housing factory in the world.

A side benefit from prefabricated housing is that, when you have a building site, you have waste – which has to be removed. Prefabrication means a huge reduction in the amount of waste – and that brings with it a reduction in the cost of getting rid of it.

Some waste, however, is unavoidable – and who better to deal with it than the UK’s Number 1 Skip Hire Company? Whatever you need to get rid of, we’re the guys to help you do it.

Call us on 0800 612 2027 or complete the form, and we’ll get a no-obligation quote to you faster than you can prefabricate a cat flap.

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