Legal and General announces plans for Europe's largest house factory in the UK
A leader in the financial services sector, Legal & General is known for its pensions and life insurance products - but the company has recently announced that it will be moving into the house-building market.
The company is planning to build the largest home-building factory in Europe, and the move could have a big impact on the UK's ailing housing market.
Legal & General will spend £55 million setting up a factory near Leeds. It will be able to manufacture around 3,000 houses or 4,500 flats a year, using off-site construction techniques and without the need for any traditional construction tradespeople.
The company says it plans on investing another £500 million on additional home-building factories across the UK.
Commenting on the project, Robert Hall from L&G Homes explained that the firm is working to create a system that enables tenants and residents to practically design their own homes from scratch - and if the plan is successful, it could change the way houses are built and solve the country's undersupply of homes.
"What we're doing is true offsite manufacturing. The process we use involves no tradesmen, zero," Mr Hall said, adding that the homes will be built complete in the factory with everything from carpets, pipework, wiring and thermal insulation, through to curtains, white goods and even televisions.
Off-site manufacturing allows warmer buildings to be constructed faster, cheaper and with less waste than traditional methods. However, house-builders wishing to use the technique have also faced challenges. A government report that was published in 2013 found that volume house-builders preferred traditional construction methods because they aligned better with established business models.
Mr Hall said one of the main benefits of the L&G project was the ability to customise the units. "All the units are not a set pattern, you can have any design you wish. What we're looking to do is have a design suite where tenants and residents can come and almost design their own homes," he said.