In this most challenging of climates new opportunities are becoming apparent particularly in the construction sector

#modularconstrution #wales #builtenvironment #sustainability #socialhousing

Trying to establish the optimum way forward for our built environment at a time when we are still very much living in the presence of Covid19 is filled with uncertainty.

For example, we can’t be totally certain that working from home will become a lasting change, and if it does we can’t automatically assume the behavioural changes that would emerge as a result. Equally, we haven’t yet seen the full impact of the pandemic, and in the coming months many businesses, particularly those in the hospitality and retail sectors will be facing an even greater fight for survival as lockdowns continue and government financial support is reduced.

However, in this most challenging of climates new opportunities are becoming apparent particularly in the construction sector. These have the potential to play a key role in our economic recovery, whilst also helping to transform our built environment. In August the Welsh Government announced a £9.5million programme to reduce housing’s carbon footprint, with the focus on retrofitting social housing. In addition the Welsh Procurement Alliance is inviting businesses to bid for places in its pool of contractors, with the intention of delivering  new housing across south and mid-Wales. Reporting on this, Construction Enquirer have quoted the overall value of the Welsh Housing Framework being a substantial £5billion over a ten year term.



Importantly Wales is changing the way it builds, in part to ensure we meet our carbon emission targets, and also to construct homes that reflect the changing ways in which people are living their lives.

This will see an increase in homes being built that:

  • Are designed from the outset to be highly energy efficient
  • Use ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic panels
  • Are constructed using modern methods of construction including: modular/volumetric, prefabricated panels and standardised components
  • Are manufactured off-site in factories
  • Make use of a wider range of sustainable materials, in particular timber.

In practice this highlights the very immediate need to ensure we have a skilled workforce in place to build the new houses and retrofit existing housing stock. As this is combined with adopting new ways of building we need our workforce to be equipped with the right skills, and this is an area where there is an acknowledged skills shortfall. New training opportunities and apprenticeships need to be made available as soon as possible, not only to ensure we can build at scale, but also to help create much needed new employment opportunities.

To gain an idea of the scale of the issue, UK Construction Media have highlighted that in England alone a staggering half a million builders are needed. In Wales we have a dynamic housing sector with a clear determination to bring the housing crisis to an end, whilst ensuring that we fully embrace a zero carbon future, and to achieve these ambitions further illustrates the need for a highly skilled workforce. To put this in context Wyn Pritchard, NPTC Group, Director of Construction Skills explains the scale of the requirement to ensure we can rapidly create a workforce with the news skills the construction industry needs:

“Having been involved in the skills and construction sector, specifically for over 20 years, I have seen key strategies being implemented with varying degrees of success. All involved are well meaning, but most strategies, revert to type and are not radical to make the real difference. This is the opportunity, and with strong Government endorsement in Wales, to create the programme needed to deliver the changes needed. We need to ensure all parties and programmes are aligned, with timing of the implementation critical, too often has the skills agenda been an afterthought, this needs to placed at the heart of the approach. WE CANNOT afford to miss such a key opportunity for employment and environmental outcomes for our Nation. We, at NPTC group of Colleges, are already engaging with partners, industry and trade Federations to ensure our training offer for the new and emerging skills needs reflects their requirements, as well as growing the economy in Wales.”

The sense of urgency can’t be underestimated, we know the direction of travel for the construction industry, we can see finance being put in place and there is a clear desire to build highly energy efficient homes at speed. In this respect having a skilled workforce is the final piece of the jigsaw and it’s an important one to put in place.

How we inspire and educate our future generations is another key requirement that needs to be addressed to provide a rich pool of talent to become the creators of our Built Environment. Helping to achieve this is MOBIE an education charity founded by George Clarke in 2017, and Chief Executive, Mark Southgate explains how their courses and schools outreach programme is working to inspire a new generation to define how we’ll live in the future:

“Home is the most important piece of architecture in our lives. It shapes the way we live and how we grow as families and communities.  The Covid-19 crisis has heightened our awareness that a well-designed home can promote our health and wellbeing.  We’ve seen that our needs from a home have grown – now it needs to be an office, a schoolroom, a gym and so much more.

MOBIE exists to create a generational shift by inspiring, training and retraining young people who will deliver the homes and places of the future.  There are incredible opportunities to create a new built environment, one that is truly green, affordable and that promotes health and wellbeing.  Through our design challenges and education pathway from BTEC to Masters Degrees we are supporting a new generation to transform the way we think about home and to give them design, digital and manufacturing skills that will help create a homebuilding revolution.”

At the start of this year none of us could have imagined that our way of life would have changed so significantly as a result of a pandemic, and even now we are still living through this period of fundamental change. However, our built environments are robust and have a proven ability to adapt, and today we can see a clear need to adapt. We are being presented with an exceptional opportunity to transform our construction sector in a way that will allow it to support our economic recovery and at the same time help us meet our emission targets. To achieve this opens up a further opportunity for people to retrain to become the skilled, well paid workforce that will be needed to build our energy efficient homes. Equally, to ensure our built environments are equipped to anticipate and embrace change it is imperative to invest in education programmes that will equip the upcoming generation with the skills they need to effectively drive forward the much needed housing transformation.


Source: Business News Wales



The Canadian company Bone Structure can produce zero net energy homes months faster than a traditional builder. But its challenges highlight the difficulty of disrupting the entrenched construction industry.

#modular #canada #construction #robotmanufacturing

Marc A. Bovet wanted to build a house, but when it came to the actual construction, he was overwhelmed with options. He had bought an empty lot and hired an architect to design a custom home in Montreal for his wife and four kids. He had all the permits and approvals, so he began looking for builders. When quotes started coming in, he was stunned to see that the highest estimate was almost twice as expensive as the lowest.

“So that’s where you go, ‘Wait a second here. This is the same set of plans,’” he says. “I even called back the architect to say, ‘Did you send the same set of plans to everyone? Because there’s something totally wrong.’”

That experience led Bovet to develop a system that uses robotic manufacturing to wring inefficiencies out of the building process. Though about 15 years old, the system is taking on new urgency as climate emergencies like wildfires force more and more homeowners to rebuild. But the system has limitations that underscore the wildly complex nature of the construction industry. Prefab methods, like Bovet’s, have long been held up as a solution to a range of housing problems. But in building and construction, there’s no easy fix.

Identifying the real problem

An entrepreneur who had run a men’s clothing line and marketing agency before becoming director at the international transportation company Bombardier, Bovet had a sense for production. The bids he was getting for his home project seemed completely arbitrary, and he wanted to understand why. So he started showing up to construction sites and asking contractors questions about the building process. Almost every question he asked got a different answer at each building site. There was no standard building approach, and the ultimate cost to build his house would depend primarily on however his builder chose to embark on the project. For Bovet, this seemed like a problem that needed solving.

He saw a solution in industrialization, but he knew that prefabrication and modular construction had been tried many different times in many ways. So he hired a researcher to look into all the different systems and patents that had been developed over the years. “We got into this micro-level research, figuring out what Frank Lloyd Wright had done; even Edison, the light bulb guy, had his own prefab system. Mies van der Rohe. Le Corbusier. You name them. From engineers to architects, everybody had their own perspective,” he says.

Bovet and his researcher found that developing a building system wasn’t the main challenge. The bigger problem they needed to solve was labor. There have been shortages in labor and skilled tradespeople in the homebuilding industry for years, as workers have fled construction jobs tied to the volatile housing market in the years since the great recession and shifted to higher-paying jobs in other sectors. More than 80% of builders have reported shortages of framing crews and carpenters, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Availability of labor remains builders’ top concern.

So Bovet began looking for ways to make a process-based industrial building system that could be assembled even without skilled craftspeople. “Because you spend three or four years to plan your project, you get some architects, you’ve bought the land, you’ve got your financing, and now 80% of builders cannot get carpenters to put it up,” he says. “You don’t have the labor. And even more so now, with COVID. So what do you do? You scrap your project? Or you try to find a platform. Well, the platform is what we offer.”

A kit of parts, no skilled labor needed

Bovet’s platform is called the Bone Structure, a steel-based construction system that is robotically manufactured, cut, and shipped to the building site where it’s fastened together with little more than screws and a drill. The company offers dozens of predesigned home models to choose from, and can also be used as the structural system for architect-designed projects. Made mostly with recycled steel and with foam insulation that can reduce energy costs up to 90% compared to a traditionally constructed home, the Bone Structure system can meet environmental certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and has been used in hundreds of homes, mainly across Canada.

It can be built almost months faster than traditional construction, which is how the company began marketing itself in wildfire-damaged regions of California, especially after the fires of 2017 and 2018 that devastated towns like Paradise and claimed homes in cities like Santa Rosa.

Brendan Kelly is an architect based in Napa, and he learned about Bone Structure like many people in the region—through presentations given after the 2017 fires. His firm had a client who wanted to rebuild a home that was destroyed in Santa Rosa, and Kelly went to see if the system could help. “I was very sensitive because I’d seen things happen in the fall and winter after the fires, with a lot of companies and builders coming in, and I think kind of taking advantage of some of these victims,” he says.

Builders were getting people to sign construction contracts and locking in prices on rebuilds that might not have been the best deals for people who had lost nearly everything, according to Kelly. “Everybody wanted their houses back so quickly,” he says. “So I went [to the presentation] ready to sort of challenge them.”

But he was won over. “The initial part I liked about Bone was that it was a system of building,” he says. Like many architects interested in the processes and systems involved in construction, Kelly is a self-described “geek” for industrialized systems and prefabrication. “I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago.”

And so had his client, a retired engineer. Though Kelly had already designed the home to be constructed out of wood, he reworked the drawings to function with the Bone system. After less than a year of construction, the home had been rebuilt to be zero net energy, 100% electric, and powered by solar panels. And though the construction time was faster than a traditional wood-frame house, Kelly says the cost ended up being about the same. “There’s no budget version of Bone,” he says.

A solution begets other problems

The system is laser-cut and shipped to the building site in a precise package. But it’s not always easy to fit in with the way homes are permitted and approved. Anders Lasater is an architect based in Laguna Beach, California, and one of his clients had come to him asking about new prefab systems they might be able to use on a duplex project. Lasater had seen a Bone presentation and suggested they take a look. The client was enthusiastic, and Lasater began working out how to adapt his design to the Bone Structure system.

“If you went to their website and looked at any of their designs, they’re very rectangular. They’re boxes. They’re really simple because their system tends to work best when you have a simplified essential geometry,” he says. “And in our case, we had a little more complication to deal with.”

The Beachitos residence in Orange County, California, Anders Lasater Architects [Photo: Chad Mellon Photography/courtesy Bone Structure]

The duplex he had designed was a V-shaped combination of volumes, with an angular courtyard and atrium in the middle. Adapting the off-kilter plan to the grid-centric Bone system required some long conversations with Bone’s engineering team. It also required a fair amount of convincing in the city’s building department. “They’d never seen anything like it before, so it was like speaking a foreign language with those guys,” Lasater says. “That was a little challenging.”

Eventualy the city, the architects, and the Bone Structure team got on the same page, and the project got built. A city building official even brought his community college class to tour the construction site. “In some ways I think the challenge was one that normally we would have avoided, but I’m really pleased with the result,” Lasater says. “Once we got it all approved, it went without any problems.”

He says he would be open to using the system again, but it may be better applied on a more simplified design, and may even be more economical to use on a multiunit project. “It will probably take you as long to build 15 as it took us to build our one,” he says.

That may be where systems like Bone Structure make the most sense, according to Caitlin Mueller, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture + Planning, where she leads a group researching architecture, structural engineering, and digital fabrication. “The speed of construction of these systems, where things can be prefabricated and quickly and easily assembled is a very big advantage, for example, in developing countries,” she says.



In developed countries, on the other hand, processes and building practices have been set for decades, and may be slow to change. “It’s been very hard to compete with timber construction at least in North America because it’s just so affordable and the labor market is very attuned to it,” Mueller says.

That was a hurdle Kelly had to get over during his Santa Rosa project, and it required bringing in someone versed in using Bone Structure’s system to help the building contractor put it in place. For contractors used to framing up a wood building with a nail gun, joining steel beams together with a drill and screws can be a bit tedious, Kelly says. “It’s just a new system and most contractors want to build things the way they did on that last project.”

Even so, Bone Structure has been used in hundreds of homes so far, and Bovet is hoping to continue to grow through selective partnerships with homebuilders. “We just won’t necessarily sell it to anybody and everybody,” he says. “We want to make sure that we offer a service, we offer a quality mindset behind the whole system, and we’re trying to get some larger builders to adapt it.”

But change is slow in the homebuilding world, says Mathew Aitchison, an architecture professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and head of a government-funded research center exploring the development of advanced manufacturing in the building sector. He recently edited a book on prefab housing and says companies offering new building systems suffer from what he calls “imminent revolution,” the tendency to believe they’re leading some fundamental shift in how things get built but that fails to revolutionize the marketplace.

“I’m not suggesting for a minute that Bone is part of this process, but there has been historically quite a lot of smoke and mirrors in this area,” he says. “Companies saying they can do a lot of stuff that they can’t, companies rolling out in quite grandiose ways but without being able to deliver on fairly fundamental things, VCs funding effectively pyramid schemes that are basing themselves on the fact that the construction sector is a huge global sector that’s largely been untapped by technological development.”

Aitchison says building and construction is just too complicated to work within any one system. “It looks very simple on the outside, but it’s actually very, very tricky and it’s much more complex than most people give it credit for,” he says. “There isn’t a best practice in construction like there is in very many other industries, in my opinion.”

That’s probably why, when Bovet went out looking for a company to build his family home, there were so many different, and differently priced, options. With the Bone Structure system, he’s successfully created one more.

[Photos: courtesy Bone Structure]



Source: Fast Company


Harinder Dhaliwal in the sitting room of the Pier town house show home

There is nothing quite like them anywhere else in Greater Manchester

#modularconstruction #manchesterhousing #offsite



So says the man heading the redevelopment of Wigan Pier’s famous buildings, although in this instance Harinder Dhaliwal is talking about the new homes that have sprung up alongside them.

The ready-made modules arrived shrink-wrapped on the backs of lorries from a factory in Derbyshire over the August bank holiday weekend and were lowered and stacked by crane to overlook the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, causing quite a stir in the process.

Since then, workmen have been putting the finishing touches to the eight town houses who should be welcome residents within weeks.

So what is so special about these waterside dwellings that makes them worth their £270k to £285k asking prices?

Well the two main things are that they come virtually ready to live in, bar bringing your own furniture and other possessions, and they have all manner of mod cons and eco-friendly features in the quest for comfortable and carbon-neutral 21st century living.

And there has been no shortage of interest in the properties, says Mr Dhaliwal, the MD of Manchester-based Step Places, as he gives us a tour of the show home. While there are a few finishing touches to be put to the overall site, three have already been snaffled up and there have been people of all ages and backgrounds showing an interest in the in the remainder.

He added: “As a place-making business we are always looking to future-proof our homes.

“We don’t cut corners and all kinds of features here come as standard that would not be in the price of a national house-builder’s home.”

One feature is an air source heat pump: a low energy heating system which extracts warmth from the air and is seen as the future of domestic heating, especially as gas will be abolished in all new homes (apart from for use in cookers) by 2023.




The sound-proofing (and heat-proofing for that matter) is remarkable. The front of the homes is but a few yards from Wallgate and at the time of the tour, heavy traffic was swooshing past in heavy rain. Yet when the door was properly closed, not a sound from outside could be heard. All flooring and tiling is already in place for the new residents – in fact they were in place before arriving in Wigan!

There is decking at the rear looking out onto the canal. It is made from recycled plastic so is extremely low maintenance and each of the three-storey buildings has a roof terrace on the top floor.

The homes are fitted with alarms while security lighting and an outdoor plug for a computer or heater are also handy extras.

The master bedroom with en suite is on the top floor, a second bedroom, also with en suite on the middle storey along with a third room that could either be used as an office or a third bedroom and off from the ground floor kitchen is a room which can double as a downstairs toilet and utility room.

Mr Dhaliwal said: “The term of the moment is MMC: modern methods of construction and this is exactly what these modular homes are.

“They are the future of house-building in many ways. Everything is done to a high specification and there are all manner of features that would in the past not have come as standard.

“By doing so much of the work in the factory – including flooring, tiles, windows and doors – you are able to maintain a consistent standard of excellence which building regulators expect of developers these days. And it can also save time. On rain-drenched days like this one you would not be able to have a bricklayer on site, but this way, all that comes ready done on the back of a 38-tonnne lorry.

“It is also virtually maintenance-free.”

Mr Dhaliwal said there were still a few matters to attend to including some landscaping and the creation of an allotment on the land between the final home and Seven Stars Bridge, but otherwise the project had been completed in a matter of six months, the first part of it having involved laying the services and foundations.

He added: “We are very proud of this project. There is nothing else like it anywhere else in Greater Manchester, never mind Wigan, so far as I know. And we want people to move into something that is more than just a place but a home.”

And so what of the trio of Pier buildings that Step Places have also been working on?

The homes were meant to be the final part of the site’s jigsaw but are now set to be the first to be completed.

Well, work has slowed on the attractions’ refurbishment due to the Covid-19 pandemic – and has also taken longer than expected because of all kinds of quirks and faults being gradually uncovered in the venerable buildings – but it hasn’t stopped.

Externally Mr Dhaliwal says that there are more railings to renovate, several doors to install and the section between what used to be The Orwell and The Way We Were (Now Piers No3 and No4) tidied up and landscaped.

The last of these will be left until last because so many heavy vehicles have been driving all over it throughout the work.

Once that is complete Step Places can concentrate on the inside. A huge amount of rotten timber work has already been replaced although there is a keenness to keep as many features from the buildings’ industrial and touristy pasts in place as possible when they are used as a food hall, micro brewery and events venue.

The next step is to install the M&E – mechanical and electrical features – including plumbing, power and ventilation.

Mr Dhaliwal said he reckoned that that would take four to five months to complete, after which a future-proofed shell will be handed over to The Old Courts and businesses to fit out.

His best guess at an opening date for the public was next June.

He said: “This is a very special project and we want to get every aspect of it to be just right.

“When it opens I am sure it will be well worth the wait. There won’t be anything like this for miles around and I think people will come to visit from a long way away.”

The original dateline for opening had been earlier this year, then it moved to October and now, due to Covid and the Old Courts saying recently that they need to concentrate on generating more money for their Royal Court Theatre project on King Street before turning to the Pier, there had been fears it might keep slipping further and further into the future.

But Becca Heron, Wigan Council’s director for economy and skills, said: “We remain as committed as ever to the opening of Wigan Pier with a long-term vision of developing a new offer that will attract visitors, which includes culture, leisure and employment opportunities.

“The opening of the Pier has never been more important with the cultural and events sector being badly hit by the pandemic and we hope it’ll be operational in early 2021.”


Source: Wigan Today

Building sensors could be crucial in driving environmental initiatives, such as the UK government’s pledge for carbon-neutral status by 2050

#carbonneutral #climatechange #smartbuildings #construction

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Unfortunately, around half of this is from the energy used in buildings. Whilst many newly constructed dwellings are designed to be more energy-efficient, a major priority is decarbonising the existing building stock, of which 80% will still be standing when the UK is to meet its carbon-neutral status by 2050. In light of Energy Efficiency Day, Stacey Lucas from Sontay explains how the presence of building sensors optimise energy performance in both new and older buildings, driving the stock towards the all-important smartness and efficiency that is essential to the current and future health of our environment.

Building sensors, installed as part of an efficient central management system, offer an ingeniously smart and effective way of remotely monitoring elements such as temperature, air quality and ventilation. In doing so, not only do they help maintain a healthy indoor climate for the occupiers’ comfort and peace of mind, sensors give property owners more agency over energy usage; a benefit that not only helps reduce heating and lighting costs, but also facilitates a significant reduction in a building’s carbon footprint. Their usage could therefore be crucial in driving environmental initiatives, such as the UK government’s pledge for carbon-neutral status by 2050.

It is in no doubt, then, that sensors have found themselves at the heart of what we call smart buildings. According to the ‘Smart Building: Energy efficiency application’ document produced by the European Commission’s Digital Transformation Monitor, a smart building is defined as ‘a set of communication technologies enabling different objects, sensors and functions within a building to communicate and interact with each other and also to be managed, controlled and automated in a remote way.’ Sensors are smart devices that sense when and how a building’s energy performance can be adapted, consistently monitoring, measuring and evaluating data which feeds into a central management or control system.

The rise of smart sensors

A control system’s sustenance, sensors play an essential role in the energy-efficient operation of a smart building. Sontay’s smart sensors in particular offer full environmental sensing in a single device. This ingenious sensor can measure a myriad of elements including temperature, RH, CO2, light level, and occupancy or local devices independently. Typically, traditional sensors require up to seven cable inputs into a controller, making for a lengthy installation. A Sontay smart sensor, however, only needs a single cable connection to perform the same duty with greater efficiency, and can be mapped to any device or freely programmed into a building’s network.

Efficiency can also be related to the health and wellbeing of occupants, as well as the climate. In terms of air quality, airborne volatile organic compounds (VOC), pollutants which are found in paints and other building materials, are known to have a detrimental effect. The same harmful chemicals are also present in hand sanitisers, aggressive cleaning products and detergents, the demand for which has been unprecedented since the onset of the coronavirus crisis. Air quality sensors are able to measure VOC levels and alert the control system or occupants of the need to take action when a potentially hazardous reading is recorded to allow for ventilation to kick in.



There are also sensors available which prevent the unwelcome pervasion of CO2 in an over-inhabited space. A CO2 sensor with an LED traffic light-style display is a potential remedy for this issue. When showing green, the sensor is indicating that a room isn’t over-occupied and the risk to air quality is low. Should the sensor show amber, it’s a sign that windows require opening or fewer people need to be in the room to maintain the same healthy indoor environment. When the sensor turns red it is a call to action, as it indicates there is not enough ventilation and possible over occupancy in the room. At these last two stages, if a sensor is connected to a building management system, it will activate relevant ventilation procedure in order to ensure a space’s occupants do not feel uncomfortable.

Controlling a whole host of elements including heating, cooling and lighting, smart building sensors can ensure dwellings run as energy efficiently as possible. Although small in size, sensors offer fierce capability, and will go some way to enabling both new and older buildings perform well into the future, for the benefit of our beloved environment. It only seems natural, therefore, to celebrate the humble building sensor on this Energy Efficiency Day.

For more information please visit

New £250m framework launches for offsite suppliers:  Offsite manufacturers looking to boost the profile of MMC in the public sector are wanted for a new four-year framework to supply schools, hospitals and community buildings.


The Modular Buildings (MB2) framework from LHC is for the design, supply, installation and hire of permanent, temporary, and refurbished modular buildings for the public sector. It primarily covers education, healthcare, emergency services, offices and community related amenities such as sport facilities and theatres, but it can also be used for residential projects that are part of a mixed-use development or for student accommodation.


Suppliers that want to be part of the framework need to offer a full turnkey solution, providing all services required to deliver a full project from design through to handover.


Mij Rahman, director of procurement at LHC, said:

“We’ve seen the public sector’s appetite for offsite construction increase over recent years, with contracting authorities procuring £100million of work through our previous MB1 framework.

“This framework needs enthusiastic, innovative suppliers that want to work with us and continue to raise standards within the MMC market and can also provide local authorities with high quality services that deliver long term value.”


The framework is split into four workstreams with eight lots that bidders can apply for.


For more information on how to apply for the MB2 framework, contact your regional hub: 



The homes can be assembled and furnished in a week. Picture: LDRS

Super-speedy flat pack homes installed in Mile End for homeless families

#flatpackhomes #homeless #socialhousing #londoncouncil

Two prototype modular homes have been put up in Mile End by the Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise (PLACE) to provide temporary accommodation for families in need.

If the first test models are successful, Tower Hamlets Council hopes to get planning permission to build 16 on the site of some old garages in Landon Walk, Poplar.

The homes would be designed to stay in place for 10 years, the council said.

John Biggs, mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “It could make a real difference to how we accommodate homeless Londoners at a time when our city is experiencing an ongoing housing crisis.

“I am glad we’ve been able to host these test units in Tower Hamlets. We’ve already identified a site for the first modular homes and in the coming weeks we hope to secure planning permission. It’s important that we think outside the box to tackle these complex challenges and this programme is doing just that.”

PLACE, which was started by London Councils that represents 32 boroughs, said the accommodation has the quality of permanent housing but the units can be relocated to a different site if required.



The homes, supported by £11 million of funding from the Mayor of London, will be put on land earmarked for development in the long term, which would otherwise remain underused.

There are some 2,000 homeless families in Tower Hamlets and more than 60,000 households in the capital currently live in temporary accommodation.

London Council’s is looking suitable locations for the flat pack homes and PLACE aims to supply 200 of the models across the capital by February 2022.

Tom Copley, London’s deputy mayor for housing & residential development, said: “PLACE shows what can be done when City Hall, councils and innovative construction and tech industries work together to tackle one of our city’s most pressing issues.

“Homeless people and those living in temporary accommodation deserve high-quality homes. This project will not only help improve the housing available for homeless families and reduce the cost of providing temporary accommodation for local authorities, but will hopefully drive innovation in house building, showing the potential of precision-manufactured housing.”


Source: East London Advertiser





Made in Malaysia, Raised in Sigapore

#prefab #architects #modernconstruction

A pair of tall towers will become the tallest pre-fab buildings in the world. And while the two 192-meter-high (630-foot) towers will stand in densely populated Singapore, much of the structures are being built over the Malaysian border. The residential project, called Avenue South Residences, will see 988 apartments made up of nearly 3,000 “modules” stacked vertically. The firm behind the project, ADDP Architects, says the construction method, known as Precast Precast Volumetric Construction (PPVC), requires less labour and can help reduce waste and noise pollution.

The individual modules are manufactured at the factory in Senai, Malaysia, where a series of six-sided boxes are cast in concrete. The units are then transported to a facility in Singapore to be fitted and furnished before being moved to the construction site. By the time they arrive, the boxes are 80% complete, according to ADDP Architects. They are then lifted into position by a crane and “sewn” together to form a strong frame that supports the load, said one of the company’s associate partners, Markus Cheng Thuan Hann. Finishing touches, like doors, are added later, the architect said. “It’s like a car manufacturing concept, but for the building industry,” he added in a phone interview. Benefits of prefabrication Controlling the amount of construction work carried out at the site located in Singapore’s residential Bukit Merah district can help lessen disruption to those living nearby, Hann said. “But this construction (method) really helps to reduce noise,” he said, of the benefit to the surrounding public housing estates. “And it can reduce waste… because the workmanship in a factory is much better controlled.”



Another unexpected benefit has developed in the light of Covid-19: Less labour is needed at the construction site at any one time. “It’s easier to control safe distancing and logistical planning in the factory, rather than having all the (workers) on-site,” Hann pointed out. Also Read – MyVoice is to lift up the voices and experiences During the post-war period, the prefabrication industry first boomed in Europe and America, with urban planners using it to quickly and affordably address housing shortages. But the prefabs is now increasingly dominated by the Asia-Pacific region.

The building method has become very popular in Singapore, with the country’s Building and Construction Authority actively encouraging the use of PPVC, citing an 8% cost saving and a 40% boost in productivity versus traditional construction means (it credits the latter to more productive “manpower,” and “time savings”). Since 2014, the agency has even made prefabrication a requirement for certain sites. Construction on Avenue South Residences has already started, and the developers aim to finish the project by the first quarter of 2023. This project will overtake Singapore’s and the world’s current tallest prefab, the 140-meter-high (459 feet) Clement Canopy, which was also designed by ADDP Architects. Among the world’s other tallest modular buildings is a 135-meter (443 feet) tower in Croydon, South London, and a 109-meter (359 feet) residential development in New York.



Source: Hans India

One of the UK’s leading offsite construction specialists – has been awarded the contract to provide modular housing for homeless families in Barking who are in urgent need of accommodation.

#affordablehousing #offsite #developers #premiermodular

The new homes are being developed by Be First, the regeneration arm of Barking and Dagenham Council.

The £1.5 million contract was awarded to Premier by main contractor Jerram Falkus and will provide 20 two-bedroom apartments across two blocks, all manufactured offsite.

The build programme has been reduced to only 15 weeks for the procurement, manufacturing and fitting out of the apartments, installation on site and commissioning, thanks to the use of an innovative offsite solution for this project.

The apartments will be fully finished at Premier’s factory in East Yorkshire using high-quality materials and will be delivered to site complete with bathrooms, kitchens, flooring, partitions, doors, windows and external cladding.

After the installation of the apartments, only M&E connections, joint details between modules and service risers will need to be completed on site.

Set for completion by the end of this year, the building will occupy a highly constrained site in a residential area and adjacent to a live railway line. Premier plans to install a trackway across an open field to bring in the 250-tonne crane and the apartments. As there are restricted hours for delivery of the modules as the site is located within the M25, the project requires detailed logistical planning.



Marcia Kirlew, development manager at Be First, said of the project: “Modular construction allows us to halve the construction time, with obvious benefits to residents in the neighbouring areas. But, more importantly, it allows us to respond to the rapidly developing needs of our local community much faster than we would otherwise, by providing value-for-money, high-quality housing for local people.”

Ed Bartlett, project lead at Jerram Falkus, added: “It is great to see how Be First has really embraced offsite construction to allow the development of challenging sites such as this, which would be very difficult to develop using in-situ construction methods. As a contractor, we appreciate that modular housing is helping us to deliver construction projects faster for our clients, addressing the shortfall in available housing.”

Dan Allison, divisional director at Premier Modular, commented: “Each two-bedroom apartment occupies a single 12.5 tonne module to optimise efficiency and will be factory tested before arriving on site. Premier will only be on site for 25 days which demonstrates the speed of our modular housing solution very well. This is a huge benefit when there is an urgent need for homes for local homeless people in the borough.”

He said it was the firm’s second emergency housing project to help meet government targets to address homelessness, alongside a £7.5 million contract for Buckinghamshire Council for the offsite construction of 58 apartments for homeless people in High Wycombe.

Designed by ATP, the Barking scheme will have roof-mounted PV panels to generate electricity and bike shelters will be installed, as well as some car parking and landscaping.

Premier Modular specialises in the offsite construction of high-quality mid-rise apartments and studios for affordable housing, Build to Rent, student accommodation and emergency housing for homeless people.

Up to 100,000 square metres of living space can be manufactured per year in a single shift, providing capacity for large-scale residential developments with minimal disruption, greater clarity of delivery on time and budget, earlier occupation and a faster return on investment for the developer.


Source: Property Investment Today

With right stimulus MMC could deliver quality housing and jobs in large numbers, argue authors

#mmc #affordablehousing #HTA #governmentfunding #constructionindustry

The government should embark on a programme to build 75,000 modular homes a year, according to a report co-authored by HTA Design partner Mike De’Ath and the government’s modern methods of construction champion Mark Farmer.

The report suggest the government is currently considering the proposals, which call for a further cash injection for the recently launched £11.5bn Affordable Housing Programme in this autumn’s spending review.

Lack of common standards is holding back the amount of homes being built, the report says

Farmer told Building Design’s sister title Housing Today that the construction of an “additional” 75,000 homes a year by 2030 could push the use of off-site construction and MMC to a tipping point of wider industry acceptance and move the modular sector beyond its current “cottage industry” status.

Farmer was in 2016, author of the government-commissioned ‘Modernise or Die’ which called for major reform in the construction industry in the face of a deepening skills crisis.

HTA has designed more than 6,000 dwellings of modular homes, including George Street towers in Croydon, the tallest modular buildings in Europe.

De’Ath said modular homes outperformed traditional new homes in nearly every area, not least speed and quality of build.

He added: “Our ambition for 75,000 new, beautifully designed, modular homes is realistic and achievable, so our ask of government therefore is simple: help us stimulate and then galvanise the demand for modular homebuilding.

”With this help, a sustained long-term pipeline can underpin investment in manufacturing to deliver the quality homes we need while creating the jobs we want.”

The report is also endorsed by the government’s housing and planning advisor Nicholas Boys Smith, founder of Create Streets, and chair of the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, who has written the introduction.



As well as further government cash, the report says the sector needs Homes England to take a pro-active co-ordinating role to broker existing demand for MMC homes across the market, in order that suppliers can be confident of demand, and scale up to meet it.

Farmer said: “The modular sector has always worked as a bit of a cottage industry – there’s massive fragmentation and everyone’s doing their own thing. Government and Homes England need to take a leadership role to aggregate all this, co-ordinating both demand and supply going forward.”

He said this role would go beyond simply setting up a framework, to actively managing the demand for MMC homes, and acting as broker with suppliers. The quango would also drive greater standardisation in the sector, ensuring different systems were interoperable. “Homes England is probably the only party that can be seen as an honest broker for this,” Farmer said.

He said the industry’s production capacity was limited to only around 10,000-15,000 units a year at present, with only 4,000-5,000 of this capacity being utilised, with demand being held back by concerns over the stability of MMC manufacturing businesses and the lack of common standards which would allow another supplier to take over a scheme in the event of a business collapse.

“The primary driver is to make the market more visible to manufacturers, so they can see the level of demand and invest and respond. At the moment those who have factories set up are often under-utilised so they can’t see this demand.”

Farmer said the risk of an imminent market housing downturn meant the government had to act to ensure the uptake of MMC. “If we leave it to open market developers, we are likely to see a reduction. So, this strategy has to be both about making demand visible and increasing real demand via the affordable homes spend.”

The report also calls for the government to focus specifically on rental and discounted ownership tenures to deliver the growth in MMC homes.

The government last week said that development partners in the new Affordable Homes Programme should make 25% of their homes using MMC, and previously set up an Accelerated Construction Fund designed in part to boost the sector.

The report says construction of 75,000 additional MMC homes would create 50,000 new jobs, add 0.75% to GDP and reduce carbon emissions in new homes by up to 40%.


Source: Builidng Design Online




The government agency will require bidders for its £7.4bn pot for affordable housing supply in the next five years to use modern methods of construction such as off-site manufacturing.

#mmc #off-site #funding #contractors #affordablehomes #developers


The Affordable Homes Programme provides grant funding to support the capital costs of developing affordable housing for rent or sale.

As the Government’s housing accelerator, Homes England will be making available £7.39bn from April 2021 to deliver up to 130,000 affordable homes by March 2026, all outside London. Affordable housing in London is governed by the Greater London Authority.

In a statement Homes England said it “expects partners to share the ambitions set out in Homes England’s strategic plan to create a more resilient and diverse housing market. This means partners will also be expected to focus on promoting significant use of Modern Methods of Construction, high-quality sustainable design and working closely with local SME housebuilders.”



The funding is for the supply of new build affordable housing, not met by the market.

Nick Walkley, CEO of Homes England, said: “There will be more of this to follow as we seek to use all our programmes to ramp up MMC capacity and capability.”

  • Off Site Manufacturing – Volumetric
  • OSM – Panellised
  • OSM – Hybrid
  • OSM – Sub-assemblies and components
  • Non-OSM Modern Methods of Construction

Homes England said non-OSM methods of construction  “is intended to encompass schemes utilising innovative housing building techniques and structural systems that fall outside the OSM categories. The presence of innovation is an essential feature that might manifest itself through an innovative non-OSM building system, through a building technique familiar in other sectors but new to house-building, or through traditional components being combined in innovative ways. Typically, ‘TunnelForm’ or H + H Celcon ‘Thin joint blocks’ would fall within this category.”

The funding also supports wider strategic objectives, including:

  • Encouraging uptake of the National Design Guide, which is part of the government’s collection of planning practice guidance within the National Planning Policy Framework.
  • Improving the energy efficiency and sustainability of new affordable housing supply.
  • Encouraging the use of SME contractors.

To allow for this, some of these elements are included in the assessment criteria for funding applications, and others are included in the standard conditions of funding.

Source: Placetech