Germany has been known for its manufacturing efficiency for many years. In the automobile industry, they are almost unrivalled in their capacity to build functional, attractive and affordable vehicles. They seem to have this knack for doing things right. In recent years, Germany has built a reputation in the prefab homebuilding arena. So what can UK homebuilders learn from their German counterparts?
The short answer is a lot! Prefab German homes come in at around 10 to 25% cheaper than on-site construction. That figure alone is enough to have the industry sitting up and taking notice. But in what areas can we learn from the Germans.
For years Scandinavia, and in particular Sweden, has been using prefabrication techniques to construct energy-efficient homes. In the colder climates, it becomes more important. German prefab homes are almost airtight, meaning controlled transfer of heat around the home, and minimal leakage.
By their nature, many UK homes are less than eco-friendly. The techniques used to build homes are simply not as efficient as prefab processes. The precision of machine factory engineering cannot be matched constructing on-site.
UK constructors can certainly learn from German prefab home by constructing as much of the shell as possible to maximise energy efficiency. This may mean bringing more parts of the home building construction from the factory rather than building on the site.
The speed of the process
German prefab homes tend to go up in a couple of weeks rather than a couple of months. As well as this being financially beneficial, it also ensures that projects flow from one to the other, and housebuilding targets in regions are more easily achieved.
The weather, supplier and delivery, staffing issues and many other challenges play their part in UK construction. By eliminating as much of the uncertainty is possible, as you do with prefab construction techniques, it is possible to move towards a more efficient UK construction process. This may end up meaning, again, that more is put together off-site and bought on site rather than being put together on site.
More plug and go
The process of going from shell to finished house involves a number of trades. Electricians, plumbers and carpenters compete for space and resources in order to finish their portion of the home. With prefab homes many of the elements that are done on site are completed off-site. Fittings are plug-in rather than having to be fitted into the raw materials, for example. The UK construction industry could certainly learn from this efficiency.
UK construction tends to be very formulaic. Certain designs are repeated around the country by multiple homebuilders. There is very little opportunity for future homeowners to feed into the construction process; if any. Prefab homes are often bespoke. That means that home owners have the opportunity to contribute to how their space is used and what extras they receive. This ultimately leads to more satisfied customers.
The UK constructors industry could certainly learn to be more accommodating of future homeowners. Buyers that purchase off plan should be able to have some input into the design of their home, even if only a little.
There is a lot to learn from the German manufacture of prefab homes, and from German manufacturing in general. The prefab boom hasn’t started in the UK yet, although there are a number of companies, such as Lagan Construction Group, embracing the methodologies. What is certain is that the UK population is more welcoming of prefabrication and no longer sees it as a massively inferior process to bricks and mortar. Around the world attitudes change to different methods of construction. In Scandinavia, as we’ve seen, prefab has become the norm. In Britain we will probably cling to bricks and mortar for long into the future. However, British constructors will do well to introduce more prefabricated components into their homebuilding processes.