Off-site construction continues to innovate without comprising on design

exterior of modular timber frame home by retreat homes & lodges

Image: Retreat Homes & Lodges

Not all modular homes are the same. Some arrive on site as fully-fitted units with bathrooms and kitchens in place, while others come flat-packed and are erected in just a few days.

Whichever the chosen system, the off-site construction industry is evolving to offer products for every budget, from off-the-peg starter homes to bespoke custom-builds, using modern materials such as cross-laminated timber and including triple glazing.

By the panel

wood panel modular home in oban, scotland by Feinmann

Image: Hebridean Homes

A very modern take on the Highland longhouse, this five-bedroom modular home in North Connel, near Oban in Scotland, is constructed from sound and insulation-efficient structurally insulated panels (SIPs) and was designed by Scottish architect Dualchas (, in conjunction with Hebridean Homes.

It was built for a recently retired couple, who have relocated to the west coast. The property offers an impressive amount of internal space, including an open-plan farmhouse kitchen and a spacious living area with a vaulted ceiling. To minimise wasteful corridor space, bedrooms have been placed at either end of the house.

The property, which benefits from passive solar gain, is clad in Siberian larch and took seven months to construct from start to finish. A similar turnkey package would cost from £357,000.

Multi-purpose living

exterior of contemporary house in Blakeney, Norfolk by Waugh Thistleton architects

Image: Waugh Thistleton Architects

The owners of this contemporary house in Blakeney, Norfolk wanted a home to suit both their family life and as a base for their businesses. The property includes an adjoining holiday-rental cabin – also modular – and a swimming pool, arranged around a courtyard.

The design was conceived with the input of architect Anthony Thistleton at Waugh Thistleton Architects at a build cost of less than £2,000 per square metre. Standing in 16 acres on the site of a 1950s house, which the couple bought and demolished, it enjoys panoramic views across the salt marshes and Blakeney Harbour, in particular from the promontory ‘sea room’.

Constructed from cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, left exposed in places internally to add character and finished on the outside in napped flint and pre-weathered shiplap timber cladding, it has been designed to reflect the local Norfolk vernacular while making a design statement. 

Portable property

exterior of modular timber frame home by retreat homes & lodges

Image: Retreat Homes & Lodges

Imagine a second home that you could pick up and take with you wherever you liked. Modular construction allows for such flexibility: although it offers the benefits of permanent construction, it can be dismantled and transported. Retreat Homes & Lodges, in conjunction with architectural practice BuckleyGreyYeoman, created this two-bedroom house on the Isle of Wight as a second home.

Built on a timber frame, to the BS3632 mobile park home standard, it was manufactured in one piece but then split into two parts for transporting, and completed with a bathroom and kitchen. The cladding is ThermoWood, a thermally modified timber that has insulating properties and is biodegradable 

A similar home would cost from £120,000 to include manufacture, delivery, siting and decking.

A raised structure

exterior of riverside modular house by hufhaus in surrey

Image: Huf Haus

Designed as a riverside home in Surrey for a family of four, this property includes floor-toceiling triple glazing and clerestory windows.

‘They fill this entire house with light and help to connect the rooms to each other’, says architect Peter Huf of Huf Haus.

Situated on a two-thirds of an acre plot on a bend in the River Thames, it has water on two sides – and with future-proofing in mind, it is built on stilts as a precaution against flooding.

As well as for generous use of glass, Huf is known for its thermally-insulated timber post and beam structure, which removes the need for load-bearing walls and allows for open spaces.

A six metre high vaulted ceiling above the dining area can also be enjoyed from the adjoining kitchen, living room and study, as well as the first-floor gallery, which overlooks the ground floor. A similar Modum house-style project would cost from around £3229 per square metre.

Rural rebuild

exterior of modular rural home designed by swann edwards architecture

Image: Swann Edwards Architecture

Modular building techniques delivered an innovative solution for this barn conversion in Shouldham, Norfolk, which links neighbouring agricultural buildings. As well as bringing two elements into one spacious home – including a cinema, games room and bar – the family also wanted to raise the height of the original barn roofs to incorporate a first floor.

This involved placing additional weight on the existing walls, so with the emphasis on conservation, carbon reduction and expediency, Swann Edwards Architecture devised a timber frame structure inside the shell of the original buildings to both support the new composite clad roof and provide a basis for the new link element between the buildings.

‘Insulated panels were then dropped inside the timber framework,’ explains homeowner Shaun Carter.

Bricks and cedar cladding on the front of the property reflect the local style seen elsewhere in the village. The total build cost was around £500,000.

Adaptable option

modular home built with a dan-wood system in Graven Hill, Bicester

Image: Dan-Wood

The owners of this house at the pioneering self-build and custom-build site Graven Hill, near Bicester, Oxfordshire, intend it to become their forever home. With this in mind, they took a Dan-Wood house type, Park 182E, and added a flat-roof annexe extension to increase the ground-floor space. It includes a kitchenette and wet room that could be used as a granny flat or office in the future.

Their home, which has also been used as a show house to demonstrate the flexibility of the Dan-Wood system, is constructed from closed insulated wall panels.

It took three days to erect and seven and a half weeks to finish, and uses an air source heat pump, underfloor heating and solar panels.

The house cost £267,050, excluding the plot.

A healthy home

exterior of a modular baufritz home situated on a beach by the seaside in Flensberg, Germany

Image: Baufritz

Every single window in this pristine family home opens to the Baltic Sea; the plot was part of a former naval base in Flensberg, Germany. Designed by modular homes specialist Baufritz, it is based on a timber-frame construction incorporating huge areas of energyefficient triple-glazed glass.

Architect Maret Riemer says that the design follows a health and energy efficiency plan, using sustainable and climate-friendly building and insulation materials. This includes a 37 centimetre thick permeable complete wall system, comprising wood from renewable sources and natural gypsum, which offers thermal insulation and protection from electromagnetic radiation.

On the ground-floor, there is an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area, plus two bedrooms and bathrooms, while a spiral staircase leads to the first floor and the main bedroom and en-suite bathroom. The owner says his house is ‘like a rock standing in the surf’.

The cost was £507,000.

Weatherproof modules

exterior of modular home built by modscape on phillip island in australia

Image: Modscape

Fully-welded structural steel-framed modules gave the family who live in this house the ‘stillness’ they asked for from their architect at Modscape. Their stunning home on Phillip Island, Australia, overlooking the blustery Bass Strait, was created off-site; the modules were painted, tiled and the joinery was fitted in the company’s dedicated Melbourne factory before being delivered.

The four-bedroom house, which cost approximately £2,000 per square metre, allowed for a high level of quality control. The four-bedroom house, organised around a central kitchen/living/dining space, is designed as two simple sections, one clad in Pacific teak timber, the other in zinc.

These contrasting materials will continue to change as they weather and provide a warm counterpart to the wild coastal setting. The windows are double glazed with coastal environment-compliant anodised frames. The design also allowed for a swimming pool in an interior courtyard, for protection from the elements, and a Pacific teak internal feature wall – just two aspects of the house that contribute to the feeling of nature all around.

Triple choices

bauhaus style modular home built by K Haus in Ludwigsfelde Germany

Image: K-Haus

This family home in Ludwigsfelde, Germany is manufactured by Kampa but available in the UK from K-Haus. Taking its cue from classic Bauhaus style, the panoramic glazing in the Kubos design is orientated to the south in order to maximise solar gain and natural light. But this timber frame precision-engineered kit system can also be tailored to meet a range of architectural designs.

It incorporates an off-site quality controlled closed panel system, which is delivered and erected within three to four days on a prepared foundation with windows, entrance doors and conduit for services.

It comes as a shell, shell plus (with services) or turnkey finish (with kitchens and bathrooms in situ), from £1,250 per square metre for a shell home to around £1,850 per square metre for a full turnkey option – depending on the design, fit-out and ground conditions.

A fast fix

Exterior of modular home designed by the wee house company in Sutherland

Image: The Wee House Company

Timber-framed and with a corrugated steel roof, Sutherland’s Lodge has the feel of a gamekeeper’s co age. Its owners say that it blends in with the surrounding countryside on Scotland’s west coast and that the look wouldn’t have been possible with traditional bricks and mortar.

Designed by The Wee House Company, the two-bedroom home was built off-site and arrived fi ed with kitchen and bathrooms, electrical and plumbing circuits and the first coat of paint. It then took just three weeks to complete.

‘A plus-point of modular building is that materials are not le exposed outdoors for long but are used quickly and efficiently,’ says The Wee House Company managing director, Jennifer Higgins. The project cost £144,573.


Words: Jayne Dowle


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