Edward Duc recently completed his PhD at Newcastle University, and his thesis speaks to the failure of the broader housing industry to embrace offsite construction and manufactured housing.
One of the reasons, and I argue the major reason, for the failure of the housing industry (construction, finance and authorities) to accept offsite manufacture (OSM) of housing, is the perceived resistance of the consumer to accept OSM.
The resistance of consumers could be construed as justification to refuse to change to a model adopted by most producers of consumer goods, manufacturing.
The research, however, has found Australian consumers will accept OSM of housing. Further, that acceptance is not begrudging but enthusiastic. Traditionally produced housing in Australia, as elsewhere, is recognised by the community as having poor characteristics for time, cost and quality. Use of OSM can be shown to improve each of these important factors.
The qualitative research interviewed consumers who were seeking to buy a new house in the near future. Using three case studies of houses of three offsite Australian manufacturers, the participants were asked two sets of questions.
The first obtaining their views of housing in general, the second after exposure to the nine OSM examples. The responses were analysed using risk categories. Those categories were finance, psychological, performance, social, time and physical risk. The responses were also analysed against aspects of perception, quality, knowledge, sustainability, customisation, lifestyle and investment.
The results were unexpected and surprising. None of the participants expressed negatives regarding OSM after exposure to current OSM examples.
Any of their original doubts were completely dispelled.
Important issues assumed for developing the research of owning a house included whether financial security was obtained, was there a sense of social status, could the owner feel pride in their purchase, would the house be solid and experience longevity? The outcome was surprising, the OSM examples satisfied all the important assumptions, for many participants exceeding the traditional models.
Further, although not a topic addressed by the research, was the aspect of housing which is sustainable. It was clear the participants recognised OSM houses exhibit better outcomes for sustainability compared to traditional models. Less waste, safer production, an ability to fine tune for climate and importantly less or no defects.
Recommendations from the research were as follows; further research expanding the findings using larger numbers of participants to ensure rigorous outcomes, action to inform government of new methods of OSM to improve housing production. Importantly absence of knowledge of OSM for the participants suggests a strong need for improved marketing of OSM technologies, for example placing OSM manufactured housing in display villages.
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