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Web chats tv | Archived lifestyle chats | Prefabulous Housing?

Web chats tv: Prefabulous Houisng?

Web chats tv

Brought to you by:

Standard Life Bank

Think of prefab housing and images of post war bungalows or draughty huts at the back of school buildings probably spring to mind. But a rather different form of prefabrication looks set to be the future for house building in this country.

For thousands of Britons today’s prefab houses are an affordable, ecological and fashionable way of living. Recent research has suggested that almost a third of us are willing to consider buying a prefab or self-build home. The sector is already worth £1.6 billion in the UK and is growing at 30% a year.

With Martin Raymond, futures director of the Future Laboratory and Ashley Ramsay, Standard Life Bank’s future trends expert joined us live online between 14.00 and 15.00 on Friday 23rd September 2005.


Peter wants to know:

"How hard will it be to overcome the stereotype of poor quality, post war prefabs?"

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: Hi Peter, the stereotype of poor quality prefabs is a thing of the past - today's prefabricated buildings come in all shapes and sizes, are energy efficient and are constructed from sustainable, quality materials. Indeed today's prefabs can be expected to out last their occupants!! They are designed to last between a 100 and 150 years.


Andrew wants to know:  

 "What do you get exactly with Prefab housing?"

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: As per the word prefab - prefab housing is a type of housing that allows you to construct a house designed to your measurements and specifications. The house can therefore be any size you desire; from a two bedroom semi-detached to a 2.5 million penthouse built on top of an existing structure. The point about prefab housing is that it allows you to customise a very basic cube style structure in ways that creates an infinite number of possibilities.

Ashley: Yes and flexible mortgage lending allows you to build your dream home. The beauty of prefab is that up to 80% of your building is made offsite and transported to your chosen location leaving up to 20% of the building to be designed to your own individual taste and specification - Freestyling at its best!


Grant wants to know:

 "What do you think has caused this boom in prefab housing?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: Hi Grant, we're in the homes business and as such it's important that we look at emerging trends in housing - this allows us to develop products and lending policies that suit our customers needs. We're seeing a market already worth £1.6 billion, which is likely to increase by 30% year on year. More and more people are looking for flexible solutions to living.

Martin: Increasingly we are seeing new family types emerging more single people living alone longer and a growing number of people using their homes to run businesses from - all of these changes require increasingly flexible and customised housing options which prefabs because of their flexible nature are increasingly providing.


Alex wants to know:

 "Where in the country has this really taken off?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: We are seeing the emerging of prefab culture in areas that are increasingly attracting a new kind of home owner - the cross-shifter. These are people who are using existing equity from an existing property to fund a lifestyle in areas of the country - Devon, Cornwall, Bristol, Newcastle, Dundee and the Scottish "silicon fens" - where they can pursue a more creative, flexible and self fulfilling lifestyle.


Follow on from one of Ashley's answers before, Ben wants to know:

 "Is it easier to get a mortgage for a prefab house?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: It's important that you speak to your local council about planning permission and then approach your mortgage lender about your plans to ensure that they will lend on the type of property you're building. Standard Life Bank has a flexible approach to lending and will consider each property on its individual merits. Visit for more information.


In response to Martin's comment earlier about penthouses, Philip G wants to know:

 "If I was to build a penthouse prefab how would I go about getting permission to put it on top of a building and also how much structural work to the original building is required?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: There is a company called First Penthouse that specialises in building penthouses on top of privately owned buildings or shared leasehold dwellings. This organisation can work with you to apply for all planning permissions required from your local planning authority and from partner organisations like English Heritage who may need to be consulted about the silhouette created on the existing roof, or skyscrapers. Structural surveys will also be required and, neighbours and leaseholders will invariably need to be consulted to determine whether or not the building is an acceptable addition to their current homes. Many penthouse prefab builders work with tenants to improve the existing structure of the old building so that they have their penthouse plans viewed more favourably at the planning application stage.


Emily wants to know:

 "What is the sort of price range we are looking at for them?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: This depends entirely on the type of structure you're interested on building. We have seen smaller properties starting around £60,000 and at the other end of the market some spectacular prefabs worth up to 2.5 million! There are prefab buildings to suit every budget.


Paul wants to know:

 "What developments in prefabs can we expect?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: Prefabs are becoming increasingly experimental in style and execution - buildings are now designed to be sustainable, energy efficient, and with mobile interior walls and screens that allow you to create and reconfigure rooms in whichever style you require. We are also seeing the emergence of semi submerged prefabs - houses built into the ground to use energy released in the soil for heating and in some cases for low wattage lighting.

What's exciting is we are seeing the emergence of the "Freestyle Generation" a group of people who demand flexible lifestyle solutions and are looking to stamp their individuality on the buildings they live in. You can expect to see prefabs become part of the housing landscape of tomorrow as more people realise the benefits.


Mark wants to know:

 "Is the prefab house more popular on the continent than it is here?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: No, British architects and designers are pioneering the new century prefab using a wide range of specially created but recycled materials which make them amongst the most durable and environmentally friendly prefab houses available in Europe today.


Let's move on to some questions from people who are about to embark on a project.


Ruth who wants to know:  

 "Would you recommend starting small, for example, we're thinking of building a gym/office/summer house at the back of our garden - nothing big, but something a little different. Also - do I need to get planning permission to do something like this?"

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: Hi Ruth, first things first, you should be very clear about the budget you have for your project. Do your homework - research is extremely important, particularly if this is your first venture. Always check out planning requirements with your local planning office. Then speak to your mortgage lender about how best to fund your project. Some of our Freestyle customers have used their cash reserve to draw down money to fund an extension to their current living space. For larger self-build projects you may want to consider staged payments where funds are released at the key stages of your construction. Visit for more information.


Vicky wants to know:  

 "Can I seriously build it myself, even without any building skills? - Do they come with instructions!"

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: It is possible to buy an off plan house from companies like Ikea and part of the deal includes the onsite assembly of the prefab. However, most prefabs are assembled offsite using complex mathematical constructions so that they can be slotted into their allocated site precisely and with every effort designed to stabilise them without too much underpinning. RIBA - The Royal Institute of British Architects will provide you with a full list of architectural practices that specialises in prefab design and construction. Much of their advice is free and it is worth seeking professional help before you proceed.


Chris wants to know:

 "To what extent can we customise prefabs to our own specifications?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: Chris, the beauty of today's prefab constructions is that many offer the opportunity to customise the internal layout exactly as you would want it. Generally speaking up to a fifth of the construction can be customised to your specification onsite. This gives a great balance between the convenience of offsite prefabrication and onsite customisation. Go on - be adventurous in your design and indulge in a little Freestyling!!


Bryan wants to know:

 "Who is the best provider of quality prefabs? Where can I find out more information about them?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: Have a look at our research into prefabs at our website. You'll find useful information on architects, designers and handy tips about prefabs. And most importantly all the information you'll need about how to fund your prefab project.


Karen wants to know:  

 "Who would benefit the most from prefabs?"

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Anyone and everyone!


Emma wants to know:  

 "I have recently read that prefabs are being stopped by Welsh planners because they don't fit in with the surroundings. Do you think other areas may adopt a similar stance?"

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: This is an exception to an ever-changing rule. Prefabs are becoming increasing popular with local authorities because they are sustainable, energy efficient and due to their unique construction methods and designer finishes can be more readily blended into existing rural and urban landscapes. More to the point planners are seeing prefab architecture as a way of redefining the social, cultural and environmental texture of an area in ways that are changing our ongoing relationship with it. This in essence is the value of good planning to create spaces and communities that are unique and not carbon photocopies or dull Poundbury replicas.


Terry wants to know:

 "Would you live in a prefab house?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Ashley: Yes, the idea of building a home to suit my personal taste is very appealing and is also appealing to over 100,000 people in the UK this year alone.


Vicky wants to know:

 "I'm confused do they deliver this and then build it or do they just deliver the flat pack and leave you to get on with it?" 

Ashley Ramsay and Martin Raymond said:


Martin: Vicky, to be clear the prefab is constructed offsite and then delivered flat packed to your designated site where it is assembled by a team of professionals provided by a prefab company. Good Luck!

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