Modular construction and VR headsets ’essential to getting more homes built’

Dominic Raab

Housing and planning minister Dominic Raab

The housing minister will today urge the industry to “embrace the latest innovations” in order to deliver the 300,000 new homes the government has pledged to build by the mid-2020s.

Technologies such as modular construction and the use of virtual reality to help communities understand what is proposed for their neighbourhoods will both be essential tools, Dominic Raab will say.

The housing and planning minister and his boss Sajid Javid are both due to address today’s Design Quality Conference in London, which Javid announced in December.

The secretary of state said the government wants to learn from architects, housebuilders and planners “to ensure how homes look becomes just as important as the number delivered” so there will be a series of sessions on “best practice” schemes such as North West Cambridge.

A key motivation for ministers is stopping big housing schemes being derailed by NIMBYs. They cited research suggesting seven in 10 people would support new homes if they were “well-designed and in keeping with their local area”.

Javid will say: “Our homes are the making of all of us, which is why today’s event on raising the bar on the quality of new homes is so important.

“This government is determined to make sure that high-quality design is the norm rather than the exception.”

He said Britain would learn from countries like Australia, Norway and Sweden where, he said, good design is embedded in decision making.

“For example, based on an Australian model, the government will urge councils to set their own design quality standards, giving communities the ability to better reflect their own unique character in local planning policy,” he said.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said £1bn was being spent by the Home Building Fund “to develop new, modern approaches to design and construction”.

So far the money has gone to eight projects in 11 local authorities using modern methods of construction such as modular homes.

Speakers at the conference include RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, Berkeley Group chief Tony Pidgley, Jane Hall from Assemble, Finn Williams who founded Public Practice, Matthew Carmona from the Bartlett and White Arkitekter director Linda Thiel.