The Urban Splash modular housing development in Manchester © lowefoto / Alamy Stock Photo
The idea of making houses in factories has a long and chequered history of idealistic attempts and noble failure. The apparent opportunity for improved working conditions, better quality control, speed, efficiency and environmental sustainability has long attracted policymakers, designers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs. Fortunately, more recently, there have been some successes.
Henry Manning, a London carpenter, produced the Portable Cottage in 1837 for export to Australia. The Manning Cottage, as it became known, was widely advertised to appeal to British emigrants.
In the early postwar years of the last century, industrial capacity built up to supply the war…
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