Increasing offsite housing construction in Scotland: An evidence base to support new policy and systems

The report provides evidence for offsite construction and how it can support the affordable housing sector.

Executive Summary

The purpose of this project is to provide evidence of the potential contribution offsite construction offers to address the challenges faced by the affordable housing sector in Scotland. Funding for the project is drawn from the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. 

The project is made up of three components: 

  • a research project mapping the benefits of offsite construction and the barriers confronting the sector’s potential contribution  to affordable housing in Scotland; 
  • a study to understand the current and future capacity of offsite construction to overcome these barriers and for the sector to increase the contribution it makes to the provision of affordable housing in Scotland; 
  • a series of co-design workshops with key stakeholders to consider how offsite construction can overcome the barriers the sector currently faces and realise the potential contribution it can make to the future of affordable housing in Scotland. 

The evidence the project offers is sourced from: 

  • an analysis of 3,500 scientific documents on affordable housing; 
  • a systematic review of more than 500 academic publications on offsite construction; 
  • interviews with experts involved in offsite construction and the provision of affordable housing in Scotland; 
  • a multiple-case study analysis of offsite affordable housing construction projects in Scotland; 
  • a desktop survey of the offsite construction sector in Scotland and the financial status of the business they conduct, in terms of productivity and growth; 
  • a series of co-design workshops with key stakeholders from the offsite construction sector and involved in the delivery of affordable housing in Scotland. 

For the purposes of this project, following definition of offsite construction is adopted: 

The manufacture and pre-assembly of construction components, elements, or modules, in a factory before being fully assembled onsite. There are four main categories: panelised systems, modular or volumetric systems, sub-assemblies and components, and hybrid systems (which combine different categories). 

Within the term offsite construction there is a broad spectrum of both ‘advancement’ (the application of smart manufacturing methods and digital technologies to increase productivity, efficiency and sustainability) and ‘enhancement’ (growth in the amount of construction undertaken in the factory compared to onsite e.g. rather than just constructing the frame, also adding insulation, windows and cladding). 


Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
“Most new homes in Scotland are already built using offsite timber frame systems but we are exploring whether we can improve the system by changing the way we and our partners do things. 
“We will consider the report’s findings and listen to our stakeholders to help us move to a more efficient, productive system which will also contribute to our ambitious sustainability goals.”