At the peak of the Alberta’s oil boom in the early 2010s, Horizon North Logistics Inc. couldn’t turn out work trailers and lodges quickly enough. Its manufacturing facilities were kept humming, putting together thousands of camp rooms destined for the Fort McMurray area or other remote project hubs.

But as crude prices plunged at the end of 2014 and the flow of workers heading north dried up, the company was forced to adapt. Taking stock of its capabilities, it shifted some of its focus from temporary workforce accommodations to permanent buildings.

“We changed out the nature of our quality, our cost structure, our software, architectural designs, the quality of the sales strategy we had, the balance sheets — and effectively converted what I’d characterize as a trailer manufacturing plant into a de facto auto plant,” says Rod Graham, Horizon North’s president and CEO.

Bringing experts from major carmakers aboard to optimize floor space and fine-tune quality, the company established the foundation for its modular construction business. Despite its track record with trailers and lodges, the transition wasn’t easy.

“Just because you can build a camp or an office trailer, doesn’t mean that you can actually build some space that’s got a commercial application,” Graham says.

“If you think about camps, effectively all the time is spent on the inside of the envelope. So, really, it was about having folks feel really good about the bedroom they were in, or feel really good about the kitchen they were getting food from, but really no thought to the exterior aesthetics of what the building looks like.”

That interior-only dynamic has changed dramatically as the company has pushed into the nascent markets for multi-unit modular builds. Today, Horizon North operates plants in Kamloops, B.C., Calgary and Grimsby, Ont., and is seeing increased demand for student, senior and affordable housing.

The Calgary-based company’s journey from work camps to modular isn’t exactly typical for the building industry, but it reflects the widespread momentum for off-site construction. Many traditional on-site contractors are also embracing the controlled environments and lucrative timeline savings offered by modular plants.

According to research conducted by On-Site last month, more than half of the largest builders in the country are either considering or already moving into off-site construction.

Just over 13 per cent of the more than 100 large Canadian contractors surveyed aim to move as much work off-site as possible in the coming years. One-fifth are shifting to modular, but only for certain aspects of projects, and another 20 per cent are considering it, but awaiting for analysis into the pros and cons. About 40 per cent, on the other hand, see modular as unrealistic for their scope of work. 


The A-Linx system is designed to provide a building’s entire superstructure, simplifying the building process. PHOTO: A-Linx

The A-Linx system is designed to provide a building’s entire superstructure, simplifying the building process. PHOTO: A-Linx

Amico Infrastructures Inc. is one of the traditional contractors expanding into the modular space. Through its A-Linx Building Technologies subsidiary, the company opened a manufacturing facility adjacent to its headquarters outside Windsor, Ont. four years ago. It’s since put up a handful of multi-unit residential projects, primarily seniors’ homes, across southwestern Ontario.

“The future is bright, obviously, with this construction because not only does it save time, it saves money overall when it comes to speed of construction.” says Dave Hunter, the senior manager of business development with A-Linx.

Like Horizon North, the company has looked to the auto industry as the basis for its manufacturing. Before landing at A-Linx, Matt Pellitteri, the company’s plant manager, took on a range of roles at the Windsor Chrysler plant, which builds the Pacifica minivan. With a background in lean manufacturing, Pellitteri applies this low-waste, high-optimization approach to building the company’s load-bearing wall systems.

The light-gauge steel panels are manufactured similarly to how you’d build an engine at a sub-assembly plant, he says.

“All these parts are introduced into a framing table,” Pellitteri says. “Inversely, if you were in the field and you were doing it with wood, you would have a guy with a saw, he’d be cutting it piece by piece and he’d be building it up while all our pieces are sub-assembled and introduced into a panel.”

One of the main draws of the A-Linx system is its ability to provide the entire superstructure.

“We can go in there and we can go from footings to roof and not many other outfits are providing that right now,” Pellitteri says. “That’s what people are gravitating toward. One trade, one quote, you’re getting your flooring system, your load-bearing interior and exterior walls, shafts and we coordinate the structure steel as well.”

With its manufacturing base in Oldcastle, Ont., the company is targeting the Ontario market, and looking to jump the river into Michigan and other nearby states. As in other industries, ground transportation for modular construction can become cost inhibitive as you ship farther afield.

With this in mind, Bird Construction Inc. is taking a different approach. In 2017 it acquired a 50 per cent stake in Stack Modular Structures Ltd., which manufactures its turnkey structural steel building modules in China and then ships them across the Pacific.

Andy Berube, vice-president of sales and marketing at Stack Modular, said its plant in Shanghai lets it leverage the global supply chain while keeping transportation costs consistent for cities across the west coast of North America — from San Diego to Anchorage.

Like other modular companies, Berube says the market has been growing rapidly as architects, developers and contractors become more receptive to off-site construction.

“I would say, over the last two years, maybe a little bit more, the interest has been escalating ten-fold,” he says, pointing to affordable housing projects in Vancouver and other areas on the Pacific coast as particularly promising.

Given Bird Construction’s stake in the company, Stack Modular can take care of on-site installation in-house, but will also partner with other contractors on stacking the modules and finalizing the projects by connecting the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

It’s a similar situation at Horizon North, which typically executes design-builds — taking projects from design, through estimating, engineering, manufacturing, transportation and installation.

According to Joe Kiss, Horizon North’s president of Modular Solutions, the company’s niche is primarily multi-storey projects, with a focus on hotels, student, senior and affordable housing. But its products run the gamut.

“We do everything from a small parking kiosk where you would pay for your parking as you exited the parkade, to a lot of specialty applications like convenience stores, for instance, Petro Canadas and A&Ws,” he says.

Component work is also common for modular builders.

PCL Construction, for instance, has begun manufacturing wall panels, washroom pods and several other products at off-site facilities. The components are shipped to job sites to complement and speed up the conventional construction process.

In the case of a washroom pod, concrete crews on-site leave a depression for the module as they pour the slab, while pre-fab teams at the modular plant assemble the washroom. Schedules are aligned so the finished pod arrives at the job site in time to be integrated. The method allows contractors to slim down on the number of workers needed on-site and build in a controlled environment.

“As we’ve had more cases come together, more projects built with this model, across North America, across the globe, people are really jumping on that,” says Troy Galvin, manager of PCL’s Agile plant in the Toronto suburbs.

While the shift to modular and prefabrication has been underway for several years, the COVID-19 crisis looks likely to accelerate the trend.

Prior to the pandemic, Galvin was anticipating blistering growth in off-site construction of around 300 per cent over the next three years. Now, he says the emphasis on speed and the need to limit the size of on-site crews will push the modular market to as much as five-times its current size.

The shop floor at a PCL modular facility. The company produces a range of building components and complete structures at its off-site operations. PHOTO: PCL


“A lot of this is about speed to market and through the pandemic, he says. “It’s really highlighted [the mentality that], ‘Hey we need infrastructure fast, we need it now, what do you have existing in your fleet or how quickly can you build us something?’”

At the same time, modular plants with fixed washrooms and no weather are more conducive to some of the health regulations builders have adopted to stop the spread of the virus than many job sites, Galvin says.

Similarly, Kiss says many of the problems the COVID crisis has created fall “into the wheelhouse” of off-site construction.

“Modular is definitely a pretty good tool in the toolbox in terms of responding to the crisis both in the near-term, medium-term and long-term,” he says.

But it’s not the only catalyst, he adds.

“There’s other trends beyond COVID that are doing that,” he says. “Just the very nature of having to build buildings more efficiently and more cost effectively, and quicker and with more cost predictability and cost certainty. Those are driving factors as well.”


Source: Offsite



Just over a month before much of the world went into lockdown, at the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, session after session was devoted to tackling the climate crisis.

It’s no wonder. This century has seen 19 of the hottest years ever recorded. In the past year, wildfires ravaged Australia and Brazil, while Arctic sea ice levels reached a record low. Failure to tackle climate change will do untold damage to our societies, economies and ecosystems.

But efforts to avert this catastrophe are under way. Electric cars, renewable energy and industrial-scale recycling are now common as the world adapts in the hope of creating a net-zero economy, which the UK government is legally bound to achieve by 2050.

Investment in environmental, social and governance funds has mirrored this trend, rising nearly two thirds last year in Europe to €668bn (£598bn) worth of assets.

For real estate investors, being ‘greener’ requires a complete change in attitude and willingness to accept innovation. Construction has lagged behind the automobile and energy industries in this respect. We are mostly still building houses as we did 30 to 40 years ago, with huge energy inefficiencies and ballooning carbon emissions. The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, according to the UK Green Building Council.

But we can’t just stop building to lower emissions, especially considering the fact we’re in the midst of a housing crisis. According to Savills, annual housing delivery in the UK needs to increase by 24% a year to meet government targets.

Last year, we received a £30m investment from Homes England to boost our factory’s production capacity. This May, it commissioned a study to test the performance of factory-built housing and provide verifiable data so that informed decisions can be made about emerging construction technologies.

With the government championing modern methods of construction, more investors are likely to follow suit.

Off the production line

Offsite manufacturing, where homes are built along a production line in a factory, can create huge carbon savings in both embodied carbon emissions and operational carbon, which is the energy used once built. This is vital for investors looking to future-proof assets against tightening energy-efficiency regulations. As part of the Future Homes Standard, which is not expected to be fully consulted on until 2024, the government has outlined plans to reduce carbon emissions from homes by almost a third.

For offsite manufacturers like us, energy efficiency is at the heart of what we do. Precision-engineering techniques and state-of-the-art technology allow homes to be built to be at least a third more energy-efficient than traditionally built homes.

We can deliver zero-carbon homes with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of A, putting them in the top 0.1% of British homes for energy efficiency. To reach net-zero energy targets, these homes must become the norm, not the exception.

Digital technology such as building information modelling (BIM) allows us to generate precise estimates of materials needed for each home, so we can reduce waste and so that 97% of what is produced can be recycled.

The race is on to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, but for UK plc to meet it – and we can – innovative methods of housebuilding must sit at the heart of investors’ plans. Now is the time to be stepping up efforts to collect data-led evidence that demonstrates to investors the huge benefits derived from building homes in factories.






Dave Sheridan is executive chairman of ilke Homes




Source: Property Week


To explore the possibilities of mud architecture, Rael San Fratello has created 3D-printed prototypes that take cues from historical earthen construction built along the Rio Grande river.

Led by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, Rael San Fratello created four mud structures as part of its Emerging Objects investigative series into 3D printing.

The project called Mud Frontiers resulted in 3D-printed designs – Hearth, Beacon, Lookout and Kiln – that the studio believes could help to provide solutions for more affordable construction.


The structures take cues from the origins of the Rio Grande watershed in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, formerly the edge of the US-Mexico before 1848. Here, traditions from Ancestral Pueblo cultures date back to 700 CE and the Indo-Hispano cultures of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado date back to 1598.

The Emerging Objects team began by researching processes typical to the area, such as hand-modelled earthen structures, and mud and pottery that harvest clay from Sangre de Christo and San Juan mountains. They then worked with 3D ceramic print company 3D Potter to make a small portable robot called Potterbot XLS-1 to print designs on the sites they sourced soils.

“What we learned was really how accessible, robust, and powerful it was to print large scale structures so quickly using the soil just beneath our feet” Rael told Dezeen.

“We discovered work flows for printing, material mixture processes, structural applications, and theories about new and old ways of living and designing for the future using humankind’s most humble material.”

Hearth comprises a thin mud-wall reinforced with rot-resistant juniper wood.

The sticks are used to join two walls together and protrude on the outside of the structure but are hidden inside – a relationship the architect likens to the “cultural differences between the architectural traditions of pueblo and Indo-Hispano buildings”. A curling mud bench wraps the inside of the tiny enclosure to meet a fireplace in the middle where juniper wood is burned.

Beacon was created to find a way to use a coiling mudwork to make the wall as thin as possible. Lights illuminate the indentations along wall at night time to give the structure its name.

Lookout, meanwhile, uses coils to create a staircase. “A dense network of undulating mud coils is laid out to create a structure that can be walked upon,” Rael added. The design also lays mud piping inside the walls into cross-shapes that can be used to create pockets of air that bolster the insulative properties of the designs.

“This also demonstrates how wide, yet, airy walls, can create interior enclosures that represent possibilities for insulation, especially in the harsh climate of the San Luis Valley that can drop below -20 degrees fahrenheit in the winter,” Rael said.

Kiln forms a culmination of a number of findings, including the coiling and criss-crossing mudwork, and adds a kiln for firing the 3D-printed vessels. The locally sourced juniper wood is are fired with juniper wood that give it a range of textures and hues.

“The products of the kiln, fired micaceous clay learning from the traditions of Taos and Picuris Pueblos, are hybrids of technology and technique,” said Rael.

“Emerging Objects explores these frontiers of technology and material using traditional materials (clay, water, and wheat straw), to push the boundaries of sustainable and ecological construction in a two phase project that explores traditional clay craft at the scale of architecture and pottery,” Rael said.

“The end goal of this endeavour is to demonstrate low-cost and low-labour construction that is accessible, economical and safe is possible.”

A particular highlight of the history is coil pottery, which uses layers of clay ribbons to form pieces.

Playing with this technique, the team made 170 vessels featuring varying bulges and markings – using the Potterbot to print the vessels with a ceramic 3D-printing software. It then developed the process to create a larger, 3D-printed adobe construction resembling series of bulging, rope-like threads from local clay.

“Excavated pit houses and above ground adobe structures defined the architecture of the Mogollon and by AD 400 this region witnessed the development of a distinctive, indigenous coil-and-scrape pottery tradition known as EI Paso Brownware,” said Rael.

Mud Frontiers by Emerging Objects was initiated in response to an article in the Smithsonian magazine called “40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years”. Number one in the list stated that “Sophisticated buildings will be made of mud”.

As part of the project, Rael San Fratello were testing a portable robot that they had created,

It was used to print the mud walls in varying patterns that related to traditional techniques


Other projects that have similarly experimented with mud construction include a biodegradable house created by 3D-printing technology developer WASP from soil and agricultural waste. French architect Stephanie Chaltiel, meanwhile, developed a prototype for emergency homes that is formed from a domed lattice sprayed with a mixture of clay and fibre using a drone.

Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Fratello, who is also an associate professor of design at San José State University,  established Rael San Fratello as an architectural research studio.

The studio gained international media attention earlier this year when it installed three pink seesaws in between the metal slats of the US-Mexico border wall, so that children on either side can play together.

Photography is by Rael San Fratello.


The worldwide 3D Printing Materials Market is expected to reach $4.03 billion by 2025,

at a CAGR of 20.7% during the forecast period of 2019 to 2025.

3D printing is one of the fastest growing technologies and is being rapidly adopted for manufacturing and other applications by various industries. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures organization, five important industries that have the greatest potential to be transformed by 3D printing in the next 5 to 10 years from 2017 include Heavy Industry, Automotive, Consumer Products, Healthcare and Medical, and Aerospace.

3D printing technology has been evolving faster than other manufacturing technologies as it can influence manufacturing processes and help businesses perform to a higher level. Further, 3D printing manufacturing line is easier to alter than the production line for traditional manufacturing. This makes it preferable for the bulk equipment manufacturing processes. Due to this advantage, industries such as aerospace, construction, and automotive have started adopting this technology aggressively.

The key players operating in the global 3D printing materials market are Stratasys, Ltd. (Israel), Proto Labs, Inc. (U.S), 3D Systems, Inc. (U.S), Materialise NV (Belgium), The ExOne Company (U.S), The Hewlett Packard Company (U.S), EnvisionTEC Inc., (U.S), Evonik Industries AG (Germany), EOS GmbH (Germany), Zortrax (Poland), Markforged Inc., (U.S), Sculpteo- a BASF Company (France), Tethon 3D (U.S), and Arkema S.A. (France) among others.

Sources: Dezeen  –  Meticulous Research

Off-site eco developer Project Etopia recently announced the acquisition of self-build specialist Tribus Homes.

Last year, the two firms formed a partnership under the ‘E-Tribus’ banner, but Project Etopia has now bought the company, including its manufacturing facility in Devon.

Tribus Homes was created to help people build their dream homes. To start with, the firm employed timber frames, but later progressed to using the same Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) used by Project Etopia.

These can be fitted with Project Etopia’s smart home technology — including lighting and ventilation — as well as Etopia’s Energy+ configuration, which generates and stores electricity.

Located just outside Tiverton in Devon, the Tribus manufacturing facility is capable of producing 200 homes a year. Etopia plans to use this factory to showcase the kind of micro manufacturing facility that can be set up around the country to support councils in their house-building ambitions using off-site technology.

These factories, set to be smaller than Etopia’s 2,000-a-year capacity unit in Ellesmere Port, can be set up in six to nine months.

In recent years, self-builds have become more popular as house prices have continued to soar and people have struggled to find the homes they want in the right areas.

Lee McArdle, who co-founded Tribus Homes, will remain its managing director, and a rebranding process will begin this year.

Joseph Daniels, chief executive of Project Etopia, said: “We are delighted to formally bring Tribus Homes under the Etopia banner. This acquisition means we can use Tribus Homes’ manufacturing facility in Devon to produce up to 200 new homes a year in the South West without needing to transport goods around the country, making developments much more sustainable.”

He added: “The factory is a prime example of how a number of satellite, small-scale facilities can be positioned around the country to create local jobs and deliver homes. Tribus will continue to provide people with their dream self-build homes, all of which will feature the smart home and energy technology incorporated in all Etopia projects.”



Source: Property Investor–will-modular-housing-and-self-build-homes-thrive-post-pandemic?source=newsticker


The Covid 19 pandemic presents unique challenges to all business sectors including construction. One of the most pressing difficulties is keeping up productivity on site while practising the social distancing measures as per government guidelines.


Utilising off-site construction as much as possible can be key to achieving project schedules while observing best health and safety practice. This has always been a benefit of modular construction and is now more significant than ever before.

Eurobrick have supplied brick and stone slip cladding to the Modular Building sector for nearly 30 years. Director Richard Haines talks here about the advantages of using brick cladding to maintain a brick finish with off-site construction, particularly in the current climate.


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“Eurobrick systems are lightweight and easy to install. In a controlled factory environment, an installer should be able to install at least 1m² per hour but an experienced installer may do a lot more. Brick cladding only requires semi-skilled labour to install too, so with the increasing skills shortage in the construction industry, reducing dependency on traditional skilled labour is advantageous.

Where installed in a factory environment, our systems are robust enough to withstand the stresses of being transported to site and craned into position. A modular building that can be delivered to site and which does not require substantial finishing works or large teams to implement installation is a major benefit, as speed of delivery is a critical factor for most projects alongside meeting important new health and safety measures.

Even in projects where it is not possible to fit Eurobrick brick slip cladding to a module before it reaches site, the cladding work can be taken off the critical path which means contact between different teams on-site can be managed more effectively.

A brick finish remains popular and is sometimes required to fit in with existing buildings. Our wide range of brick slips allows you to match the finish of existing structures and as our systems are flexible, they can be used in conjunction with other exterior finishes such as timber and render. This means a mixed palette of finishes, popular for creating a contemporary look, is achievable. And you can be assured that our kiln fired clay brick slips weather and age in the same way as conventional brickwork, requiring little to no maintenance.

Eurobrick have supplied a wide range of projects including residential and leisure developments, schools, colleges and universities throughout the country. Not only are our systems tried and tested, but they have certification from the British Board of Agrément (BBA), are LABC registered and we also provide our own 25 years guarantee.

Not all systems are created equally and while Eurobrick’s products have been tested extensively in laboratories they have also been tested and proven out in the real world during our 30 years in business. Other suppliers offer alternative systems however few, if any, have the wealth of experience and knowledge accumulated by Eurobrick and our dedicated team will be pleased to provide expert advice and practical solutions.

Furthermore, there is a network of independent Eurobrick Approved Installers who can provide experienced labour to projects of all sizes all over the UK.”

Eurobrick’s brick slip cladding offers numerous benefits in many situations. For modular/off-site construction the ease of installation, low weight, product consistency and a means to provide a real clay brick finish are key. While the construction industry is forced to adapt to the current circumstances, modules constructed off-site but with traditional appearance finishes will enable projects to proceed while maintaining the safety of the workforce.


For more information visit

When Wuhan, China, began to first wrestle with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the need for medical centers, it turned to modular construction. In less than two weeks, it was able to create the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital and the 1,600-bed Leishenshan Hospital. Videos of the construction were shown on YouTube.

As the coronavirus begins to take hold in the U.S., many are wondering whether there will be a similar need here. There’s even talk of turning New York City’s Javits Center into a temporary medical facility. Some cities are repurposing hotels and other facilities to quarantine people or provide support for the homeless.

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With the demand for hospital facilities set to hit critical mass within the next few weeks, especially in large urban areas, many people are looking to modular construction as a potential solution.

Why modular construction is a good fit for hospitals

Stephen B. Jacobs , FAIA of Stephen B. Jacobs Group, PC , the architect behind the tallest modular hotel in New York City, explains that the ideal projects for modular construction are ones that have a lot of repetition. This means that both nursing homes and hospitals (as well as hotels and apartment buildings) are a natural fit.

Modular construction can be assembled quickly and isn’t dependent on the weather. This means modules, which are built in a factory, can be assembled at any time. Right now, while there are concerns regarding social distancing, putting modules together may require some different practices.

What may slow the process

One issue, however, is making sure modules arrive where people need them most. This becomes especially important when there is an emergency. As Jacobs notes, “The maximum width, length, and height of modular are determined by transportation considerations rather than what is right for the project.”

One of the reasons that China was able to move quickly was that it has access to a lot of inexpensive labor, much of it required to work in round-the-clock shifts. Also, the fact that Wuhan was on lockdown kept the streets free for construction vehicles and the transportation of modules.

Core benefits of modular construction

One of the most important things about modular construction is that it separates the location where the project is constructed and the availability of local labor required to construct the project conventionally. This could also allow factories to build healthcare modules and deploy them as needed.

“Modular construction in many ways simplifies the developer’s task in that it puts a significant portion of the project under a single responsibility,” said Jacobs.

Economics are also a key determination. Modular construction has the potential of achieving major savings in the construction process. We had already identified modular construction as a top trend in 2020 for cost savings and speed, both of which have now become more critical than ever before.

Moving beyond the immediate need for more hospital beds and exam rooms, it may also be possible that design trends may shift away from wide open spaces toward properties with more individual rooms and sections. This could make modular construction even more appealing for the long term.

What does modular construction look like for the long haul?

“For modular construction to take the next leap into fireproof high-rise construction, we require many more local factories with the ability, reliability, and financial structure to produce fireproof modular that are required for multistory buildings,” says Jacobs.


Source: Millionacres

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More than 1,300 people answered a job advert for carpenters, labourers, joiners and shop fitters to work at Darwin Group, in Shawbury, building emergency hospital units to combat the virus.

From its manufacturing centre, wards for more than 150 new beds will be built using the companies advanced modular design system. The manufacturing centre will be working virtually 24 hours a day seven days a week to get the buildings delivered in the shortest possible time.

The buildings will be going to three NHS trusts in England in the North West, Midlands and Home Counties regions.

The building modules will be transported to the three sites, from the Shropshire manufacturing centre, where the Darwin installation and site completion teams will commission the wards for use. The whole process is expected to take around nine to 10 weeks.

A company spokesman said: “We wouldn’t be able to achieve this without the full support of our manufacturing, site and office staff who have been magnificent in stepping up to this challenge.”

The company said it has also engaged specialist local suppliers to provide a full hot and cold meal service for the workers, as well as a specialist cleaning company to provide “the highest level of cleanliness and sanitisation practical in the workplace”, in an effort to protect staff as far as possible, while still providing an absolutely essential service.

An advert for the jobs on Facebook placed by Shrewsbury recruitment firm Team 4 You yesterday received an unprecedented response, with operations director Nick Lewis revealing they had taken more than 1,390 calls and hundreds of emails.

He said it was a great response and had included all manner of people wanting to help, including one 76-year-old retired carpenter.

Mr Lewis said they would be keeping all the details of the people who had been in contact and would be matching their skills ready for when they need more workers.

The developments come as the government is looking to increase capacity for intensive care units to treat people most seriously affected by coronavirus.


Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the construction of a 4,000-bed hospital at the ExCel centre in London, with 500 to be ready in a matter of days.

The Darwin Group’s website explains its track record in providing buildings for the NHS, saying: “Darwin Group are one of the UK’s most reliable and trusting providers of modular healthcare buildings, with considerable experience in delivering permanent solutions for a wide range of healthcare needs to clients in both the public and private sector; including ward accommodation, outpatient care and walk in centres.

“Using the latest construction techniques Darwin Group Ltd can deliver outstanding facilities at an exceptionally affordable price in a time scale that suits you. Completing every build with minimum disruption, and maximum infection control to ensure the safety of patients, staff and visitors at all times.”

The firm has a wealth of experience building modular hospital buildings, with its website stating: “Darwin Group have been awarded more than 20 projects through the NHS SBS Modular Buildings Framework over the last 2 years. We have also been awarded places on all five lots applied for on the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Modular Buildings Framework. Our position on these frameworks is testament to our experience and the quality of construction services we are able to offer.”

The firm also built a 24-bed acute medical unit for Wye Valley NHS Trust at Hereford County Hospital.

Source: Shropshire Star

Giulio D’Andrea, marketing director at Green Life Buildings asks: Could MMC be the solution to the UK’s post-coronavirus housing backlog?


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Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. When you don’t what to think any more, you look for wisdom elsewhere: from Shakespeare, from the Bible or from a football manager.

Let’s start by (mis)quoting Bill Shankly, a Liverpool FC coach even greater than Jürgen Klopp: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death … it is much, much more important than that.” Let’s substitute finance for football. If I asked: “What’s your greatest concern right now?” I’ll bet it wouldn’t be the fiddly process of applying for a mortgage from a British bank or building society. Like most of the world, your worry is how we’re going to overcome the mortal, viral threat we all face.

Unlike the crash of 2008, the problem is the spread of a natural virus, not the international transmission of dodgy, man-made mortgages. Central banks can lessen the economic impact of coronavirus, but they can’t slow its spread, immunise individuals or cure those who catch it.

I don’t pretend to know when society might get back to ‘normal’ or what the new normal will look like. It may be nothing like the past. But let’s take housing and look a few months or years ahead. If construction, like other industries, is forced into unseasonal hibernation, the current housing backlog will grow and the need for new starts and completions will intensify.

What can be done to get MMC financed more seamlessly?

Homes England could hold specific events for lenders and valuers and invite modern methods of construction (MMC) providers to discuss the benefits of their systems over traditional methods.

Homes England should be actively encouraging structural warranty to provide the likes of the National House-Building Council (NHBC) with the technical/admin support to understand the different systems, so the seal of approval can be granted faster.

There is a real opportunity for lenders to finance projects that are only viable by using MMC systems, such as infill sites, or tier two sites, therefore, an individual or department within each lender that specialises in MMC should be considered. Some lenders are already undertaking this.

VAS Panel should have access to a group of valuers that specialise in MMC, who can, therefore, provide lenders with the appropriate information to aid finance applications.

Home England’s development finance fund should consider preferential rates for developers that are willing to adopt MMC on their scheme over traditional.


The MMC offering

Overcoming years of hidebound obstruction from builders and developers, MMC — like the advanced building system from Green Life Buildings — is recognised and being promoted by the government. What Green Life Buildings and other MMC firms offer is a way of building smarter, cleaner, warmer and quicker. Good for developers, for buyers, for the environment and for lenders, too. Or so you might think.

Here we come up against the law of unintended consequences; the reverse of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’, where selfish acts benefit all. In this case, official recognition of MMC has led some lenders to create a new MMC loan category. Ticking MMC on a mortgage application form can mean a slow, bureaucratic process that delays rather than accelerates new construction. Since MMC is by nature new, how can a building society surveyor assess local demand for MMC houses in setting a value against which to lend? Catch-22.

It may comfort finance professionals to know they’re not to blame for the crisis. But if mortgage lenders want to help get Britain better housed as we recover from the current crisis, here’s one idea.

If mortgage business is slack in the coming months — as seems likely — why not use the time to review the lending process so that MMC is a plus point for borrowers and not an obstacle to getting a mortgage? And if the government is serious about promoting modern, greener building, it should use its powers as a referee to blow the whistle on lenders who accidentally obstruct MMC.

Guru Bill Shankly had it right.

“The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they do not know the game.”

Modern construction needs modern financing. If politicians don’t understand the game, it’s time they learned at least to avoid scoring an own goal.


Source: Development Finance Today


Following the launch of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s report, the Housing Secretary has said that he wants to see zero-carbon homes being built “as standard” within 5 years. David Hopkins, Director at the Confederation of Timber Industries, argues we have no time to waste and discusses how switching focus to building homes with timber can achieve this now.


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The construction industry is faced with a paradox – charged with building more houses, whilst reducing the amount carbon produced. When looking at the emissions of the industry over the last decade, the trend is worrying – with total emissions from construction climbing rather than falling. Building more resilient, efficient, sustainable and attractive homes is key to addressing this conundrum.

It is certainly true that whilst there are challenges the industry must face up to, there are readily available solutions that can sustainably ease the current, and dire, housing shortage. One of these solutions is increasing the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). MMC use offsite construction methods, and are quicker, cheaper, quieter and more environmentally friendly than traditional onsite methods.

We can make MMC even more sustainable by using them to build with timber. Timber is the most sustainable, effective and attractive construction material available to use, and using it is key to meeting emissions targets. Indeed, one of the key recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change in its recent report UK housing: Fit for the future? is to increase the use of timber in construction.

Currently, only around 22% of homes in England are built using timber frames, with only a slightly higher percentage UK-wide. This represents a significant missed opportunity. If the target additional 270,000 homes per year were built using MMC, homes would not only be built more quickly, but they would boost local economic development, modernise and boost productivity in the construction industry, and help the UK become a world leading low-carbon economy. The Committee on Climate Change calculated that if those 270,000 homes were built out of timber, this would absorb and store three million tonnes of carbon.

The Government can do their bit to help deliver this, by working with industry to ensure procurement contracts are awarded to manufacturers based on their contribution and commitment to low carbon construction. Equally, local authorities could incorporate a preference for using the lowest embodied carbon systems and materials into every council’s planning policy framework. In order to meet the skills requirement needed to build more homes, local governments should introduce a requirement to employ a minimum number of apprentices and provide a minimum level of training into local planning policy frameworks.

These measures would help encourage investment into timber-frame factory development across the country.

Unlike other materials, trees require little more than sunlight and water to grow, and they absorb and store carbon as wood. Timber itself is lightweight, easy to use, and requires very little energy to produce high performance, low carbon buildings. Our own industry life-cycle assessment studies have shown that more carbon is absorbed and stored in timber products than it takes to manufacture them – something no other mainstream material can claim!

The threat to life on this planet from climate change coupled with the need to build good quality housing at scale, quality and economically, should mean building with timber is the solution to many of the problems associated with the housing crisis.

There is no shortage of supply either. Thanks to sustainable management practices across Europe, far more trees are planted than are harvested. This has meant the forests of Europe – the UK’s main source of supply – have expanded by five per cent over the last quarter of a century, at a rate of 700,000 hectares per year.

Growth in the forest has come at the same time as economic and industrial growth in the timber sector, with innovations in engineered timber products meaning we can now see medium rise buildings across our cities all built from timber. Of course, persuading developers to use timber systems has not been easy. Change is difficult in a conservative supply chain. It is a lot easier dealing with what you know and building the next building in the same fashion as the last.

Of course, the Grenfell tragedy, though it was a concrete building, is having an impact because there is a misunderstanding over the performance of engineered timber systems in fire. Unlike many other materials, timber is entirely predictable in fires, and can hold its structure far longer than other frames. When exposed to fire, treated timber will form a charred layer creating its own barrier to burning, meaning that the fire is contained and struggles to spread. Despite these properties, the timber industry knows this is an Achilles heel and has invested heavily in fire testing and safety measures to reassure a sceptical public.

In 2009 what was then the world’s tallest engineered mass timber building was constructed in Murray Grove, Hackney. It was the start of a building revolution with the UK at the forefront. Choosing to build with cross-laminated timber (CLT) meant we could reduce the use of concrete, a material with one of the planet’s largest carbon footprints, for a material which captures carbon and stores it for generations – wood.

The Government, and indeed anyone with influence in this field, should urgently follow the advice of their own reports, and start building with timber for both their own and their children’s future.


Source: Politics Home


Methodology for quantifying the benefits of offsite construction CIRIA and the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology, University of Cambridge, are pleased to announce the launch of a new guidance report entitled Methodology for quantifying the benefits of offsite construction (C792). Offsite construction offers the potential to deliver a number of benefits including better quality construction, improved health and safety, a faster construction programme as well as predictability of cost and time on any given project. Despite this, uptake of offsite construction is slow as there is no industry method for assessing the benefits of offsite techniques. This new CIRIA guide proposes a framework for comparing construction approaches, making it possible to keep consistent records across projects and identify all the possible benefits available. This guide also highlights the challenges that can be expected when assessing the performance of construction projects and developing robust benchmarks for comparison. It provides a framework for evaluating project performance that can be used by clients, construction management teams and designers to assess the value and benefits achieved on projects. The guidance is set to support decision making and facilitate wider industry collaboration across different sectors in the construction industry. Professor Lord Robert Mair, Emeritus Sir Kirby Laing Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of Research at the University of Cambridge commented “There is compelling evidence for more widespread adoption of offsite manufacture in construction. Yet a methodology for quantifying its benefits is much needed. The process outlined in this excellent report provides an invaluable guide for industry professionals, such as contractors and project managers, as well as those who are influential in decision-making on construction projects, including clients, advisors and policy makers.”


The guide is available to download freely from