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Modular buildings could offer a solution to the housing crisis in Swindon

Modular buildings could offer a solution to the housing crisis in Swindon, according to a local businessman.

Linus MacLiu says modular buildings – which are made on an assembly line and delivered to the building site ready-made – can deliver homes in a fraction of the time of traditional bricks and mortar methods.

The construction process also generates less waste, has a lower carbon footprint, and causes less disruption to local people with fewer deliveries to the building site.

And the process also bypasses the on-site labour shortages which add to the cost and build time of housing created by traditional methods.

Linus, who grew up in Swindon before moving to Manchester to work in the music industry, saw modular house-building in action when he spent 18 years living in China, where the pinnacle of his entertainment industry career was overseeing the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo on behalf of the UK government.

“I saw a 26-storey apartment building constructed in five days,” he said. “It took a further six weeks to do the internal fittings like water and electricity, and the apartments were ready to be occupied after three months.”

This compares favourably to the 12 months it can take to build a similar-sized structure using traditional building methods.

Linus, who returned to the UK in 2022, chose Swindon as the base for his new business venture, Zoo View Properties.

He is talking to local councils across the UK to explain how modular units could help meet their housing needs.

He is also speaking to developers and architects to persuade them to use modular buildings when designing new housing projects.

Modular building ‘has the potential to revolutionise the sector’ – Homes England

The energy-efficient glass and chrome units are constructed in China to high building specifications. They can be shipped to the UK in about the time it takes for a building site to be levelled and prepared for construction. Once on site the units are stacked and fixed together.

While stunning modernist homes can be created using the method, the cost of individual units is driven down when developments are built at scale.

From student accommodation to starter homes, modular housing could help councils meet their requirements at speed.

The government, which has consistently struggled to meet its target of 300,000 new houses a year, is already looking favourably at modular housing, while Homes England says the system “has the potential to revolutionise the sector.”

And should Labour win the next general election, their ‘grey belt’ housing plan – which will speed up planning decisions – will form a keystone of its wider economic plan.

Linus says he would love to see a modular village help to tackle the housing shortage in Swindon.

While the town is known for its heritage red brick Victorian buildings, it was also a hotbed of architectural creativity in the late 20th century, with Norman Foster’s striking Spectrum building, the glass and steel Cellular Ops building on the edge of Peatmoor Lagoon, and the former Motorola Building at Blagrove Industrial Estate demonstrating Swindon’s forward-looking attitude.

Meanwhile, the town also has a history of meeting its own housing needs with the construction of prefabricated steel-framed houses in the 1950s.

“Swindon – one of the fastest-growing towns in Europe – could be a national showcase for modular housing while providing our citizens with truly affordable, energy-efficient homes,” said Linus.

“All it requires is vision.”

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Sarah Irving

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