Choosing panel products that satisfy building standards, have sound environmental credentials and are quick and easy to use when battling the elements in the UK, is one tough task; and West Fraser’s SterlingOSB Zero range makes the job a whole lot easier.

The portfolio comprises of SterlingOSB Zero OSB3 and SterlingOSB Zero Tongue and Groove; both are variants of the precision-engineered OSB3 board; BBA-approved, the board contains zero added formaldehyde and is produced in Scotland from forest thinnings taken from sustainably-managed forests. It is also certified according to the guidelines of the FSC® (C012533) and is CE-certified.

Among its multiple uses, SterlingOSB Zero is ideal for timber frame construction. For structural use in dry or humid load bearing situations, SterlingOSB Zero OSB3 is the board of choice. Flooring and roofing applications are served by SterlingOSB Zero OSB3 and SterlingOSB Zero Tongue & Groove.

West Fraser delivers a net carbon benefit in all its products produced in the UK, locking up more CO2e in the products (and lifetime of use) than is emitted in the manufacture of them.  That accounts for everything from forest to customer, including harvesting, production, sales and logistics.

For further information, call 01786 812 921 or visit

Ibstock Plc (“Ibstock” or the “Group”) is embarking on the next stage of its major investment programme at its Nostell factory in West Yorkshire. Once fully operational, Ibstock will have the UK’s first fully automated brick slip manufacturing centre at the Nostell site, producing around 50 million brick slips per year.

As the leading brick manufacturer in the UK and with over 200 years of industry knowledge and expertise, the Group are increasing their presence in the fast-growing markets for brick slips, façades, and walling system solutions, as they continue work towards maximising the full potential of more modern methods of construction in the UK.

The new brick slips centre at Nostell is progressing in two key phases. Phase one is nearing completion and focuses on driving pace and scale of brick slips through automation using the first of its kind technology here in the UK. Phase two focuses on even more advanced technology which will significantly expand the brick slips product range and offering from 2025 onwards. The latter phase is a fundamental step in Ibstock’s journey to net zero.

The investment and innovation into the brick slips centre will not only continue to provide customers with a traditional authentic brick finish, but also enable a more modern installation approach. This will help meet the growing customer demand in mid-to-high rise new build and other key markets such as retrofit and the low rise modular offsite sector.

The Group will also continue to collaborate closely with developers and contractors on other new construction systems which will bring even more modern solutions and more carbon efficient building products to the supply chain, as well as influencing the design for manufacturing and assembly from early stages of conception.

Adam Foster, Project and Operations Director at Ibstock commented: “We are incredibly excited by what the development of our brick slips manufacturing centre at Nostell means for Ibstock as a whole – unleashing speed, scale, flexibility and precision in fast growing markets. The investment will increase our overall brick slip capacity by ten times more than what it is today, which is testament to our commitment to innovate for the construction industry.’’

“Not only do brick slips provide an authentic brick finish that will support planning applications, but also enable a more efficient installation for the targeted markets. Its light weight, promoting easier installation, manual handling, less waste in construction, as well as time efficiencies on construction sites.’’

‘‘The new manufacturing technology at Nostell also allows for more agile operations, with fast response times and lower minimum order quantities compared to current imported alternatives. Furthermore, the high precision and new process results in brick slips having a tighter tolerance for systems such as precast. The slips will be incredibly durable and safe from a combustibility perspective, meaning they can be specified with confidence across multiple system holders.’’

“For mid to high rise buildings, retrofit and low rise modular, using Ibstock brick slips can significantly streamline the specification process. We use a variety of materials to match regional styles nationwide, ensuring our slips can perfectly complement existing, handset bricks.

“Furthermore, the slips are available in a range of bespoke thicknesses, from 15mm and above, meaning they suit a wide variety of applications. The high precision manufacturing and rigorous quality process allows us to achieve unparalleled precision on dimensions for manufactured systems requiring a very tight tolerance.

“By scaling production capacity of our brick slips, we are enabling more key markets to take advantage of the inherent benefits they can deliver.’’

Vincent Matthews (pictured below), Head of UK Marketing at SFS, discusses the benefits of working with a product manufacturer in construction to select an appropriate system solution.

UK’s built infrastructure bears testimony not only to changing architectural styles, but also a long and bitter history of political pragmatism, almost perpetual financial pressures and flawed specifications.

The country has failed to construct sufficient new housing in almost every decade since World War Two, and even when it has met Government targets, the resulting properties have often showcased a catalogue of shortcomings, ranging from poor thermal and acoustic insulation to catastrophic structural inadequacies, with the Ronan Point disaster having marked a low point in the development of factory-fabricated system building.  As we continue to await the full outcomes of the Grenfell inquiry, it’s highly likely that the over-cladding and overall modifications made to the council flats prior to the fire represent a seriously flawed effort to refurbish a 1970s tower block.

The poor workmanship and detailing together with apparent switching of specifications has cast a shadow across much of the construction industry, with Dame Judith Hackitt’s report serving as a wake-up call to specifiers that standards must improve radically. They come at a time when politicians and climate activists are demanding ever higher standards of energy performance in order to cut carbon emissions.

By tradition, the building industry has relied on a mainly empirical approach for its product development and evolution of new technologies, but arguably, time has run out for trial and error.  Across both the new-build and refurbishment sectors, we require a step change in both quality and consistency of outcome, and this will require far better cooperation up and down the supply chain.

Undoubtedly, if projects are to meet, and in many cases, necessarily exceed current standards on insulation and airtightness, while also achieving excellence in terms of fire protection, acoustic control and structural stability, all while meeting budgetary and environmental targets, it will require clients, contractors, consultants and product manufacturers to work together far more collaboratively.

Every generation has had its own Modern Methods of Construction, with housebuilders almost universally switching to trussed rafters when they became available in the late 20th century, but the Millennium marked a genuine acceleration in the adoption of off-site manufacturing with significant developments in doors, windows, roofs, walls and floors, as well as other key elements like building services.  The latter largely reduces energy demand and water usage.

If we look, for instance, at rainscreen cladding systems as being amongst the most visible aspects to contemporary building projects, they can be considered to highlight one of the significant quandaries for specifiers and project management teams.  For such systems demonstrate how the law of diminishing returns effects efforts to cut heat losses through building elevations as unfortunately heat transmittance is not linear.

National building standards do not actually constitute a means of future-proofing designs against the potential predicted effects of climate change, which might render many buildings uninhabitable, or at least unaffordable to upgrade.  Bolstering the U-values of walls and windows beyond those required by Building Regulations is complex, with such aspirations demanding proportionately wider insulation zones to the point that it can significantly impinge on the living space negatively affecting sale or rental values.  Deeper rainscreen systems inevitably require significantly increased lengths of fixing, along with larger brackets, possibly with closer spacing.  Again, the realities of thermal transmittance come into play and will demand difficult decisions on materials as well as configuration.

Aluminium is one of the world’s most recycled metals, whose reuse delivers a dramatic reduction in embodied energy compared to smelting the virgin ingots from bauxite ore.  On the downside, though, aluminium has a naturally high thermal transmittance and a relatively low strength compared to steel, so the density of brackets and cold bridges will rise.  A proven alternative is to specify stainless steel brackets instead, while working with a manufacturer offering a comprehensive product selection and flexible design capabilities will greatly increase the likelihood of achieving the correct and – ultimately – most economic specification.

Accuracy is key as, while it is possible to utilise ballpark figures for a building’s thermal envelope, those involved often make assumptions about the choice of brackets and fixings that bear little relationship to the final specification.  As insulation thickness increases, the point thermal bridging effect of brackets becomes more pronounced, leading to multiple layers in thicker build-ups, which makes the thermal bridging effect worse.  Unfortunately, a vicious circle will arise which will almost certainly derail the specification when it is re-examined in detail later in the project.  Particularly, where very low U-values are targeted, getting appropriate guidance on bracket types and materials (i.e. aluminium or stainless steel) in the early stages will help to steer and inform setting out decisions.  Those decisions shape the internal floor areas and long-term building comfort that can be achieved, so dealing with them from the outset significantly reduces the possibility of performance gaps.

As a leader in digitalisation as well as AI, SFS has invested in creating a set of intuitive calculation tools, meeting a variety of design challenges and referred to as the “ConnectSuite.”  Most popular of these amongst specifiers at present is Project Builder, which enables design professionals to input the full construction details for a wall build-up where a rainscreen system is envisaged.  Data can include parameters such as Target U-values and preferred materials, while outputs can be used in project pricing and other activities.

Project Builder is fully compatible with SFS’s NVELOPE systems of cladding rails and bracketry, and has long been popular with engineers, architectural technicians and specialist installers, when designing exterior walls.  As an online tool, it offers the enhanced security and confidence of undergoing an internal evaluation process, carried out by SFS Technical Advisory Service engineers, prior to a full specification being issued 24 hours later.  Meanwhile, the company has also published a series of White Papers covering a variety of subjects including insulation within façade design.  Technical support of this standard will become ever more valuable as the uptake of MMC accelerates and design freeze is demanded earlier prior to manufacture.

Protecting long term value

Accurate, early technical design sets the tone for the project.  Whether the end goal is ‘just’ regulatory compliance, or creating a building which will be resilient for the climate in the year 2100, knowing that the thermal properties or energy efficiency of the building envelope has been set accordingly, makes it harder to change later on.  Installers often review specifications purely on a ‘cost per item’ basis, and will seek to change individual components, with limited awareness of how they contribute to the complete system.  Understanding that every element of the building specification has been set with a certain performance in mind makes it far easier to ‘defend’ that specification against cost engineering exercises that imperil long-term value and therefore the ultimate sustainability.

For further information, call 0330 0555888
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Structural timber and modern methods of construction are set to play an important role in the UK achieving its net zero targets and meeting the Future Homes Standard.  With new homes expected to produce 75-80% less carbon emissions compared to current levels, the controlled manufacturing environment of offsite timber frame construction has seen OSB with built-in vapour and air barrier properties emerge as a potential game-changer and a key component in the creation of an airtight building envelope.

The revised Part F and Part L requirements of the Building Regulations, which address ventilation and conservation of fuel and power, are paving the way to even more stringent Future Homes Standard in 2025. It will place even more importance on the design of a building’s envelope. Timber frame manufacturers that can provide high-performance, airtight envelope solutions will be well-positioned to meet these changing regulations and capitalise on the move towards low-energy construction.

Pushing the envelope

In order to meet the evolving standards, there is an innovative solution to simplify the path to airtight building envelopes. The increasing demand for double sheathed timber frames in both structural applications and the development of offsite closed panels, led to innovation for producing an airtight OSB/3 panel with airtightness engineered into the panel substrate. Manufacutured from MEDITE SMARTPLY’s sustainably managed forests in Ireland, SMARTPLY AIRTIGHT panels can be used as the airtight layer on the warm side of the insulation in timber frame construction systems, helping to create an airtight building envelope.

Each panel features alternating layers of wood strands coated with a high quality formaldehyde-free resin and wax binder system to deliver outstanding levels of airtightness. A specialist coating is then applied to ensure vapour resistance and provide a quality assured OSB solution for super-insulated and passive buildings, and enabling the elimination of a traditional additional vapour control membrane from the construction.

By seamlessly integrating air and vapour barriers into highly engineered OSB panels, this streamlines the installation process, minimising the risk of air leakage that often plagues traditional timber frame structures. This cutting-edge solution not only simplifies construction but also ensures a certified, proven approach to creating airtight building envelopes that will pave the way for low-carbon, energy-efficient homes of the future.

High-quality fresh air

Whilst airtightness is important for avoiding heat loss, an appropriate ventilation strategy should also be considered as without it, a building can potentially suffer from moisture and condensation issues and a reduction in indoor air quality.

To maintain a healthy indoor air quality whilst minimising energy loss, controlled ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) is a requirement in Passive House buildings. This involves extracting hot air from wet rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens and supplying fresh air to living areas and bedrooms. The fresh air is filtered and is heated by the extracted air through a heat exchanger. In very cold climates, the fresh air can be heated through ground or air source heat pumps.

Airtight timber frame homes

Testament to the benefits of OSB with built-in vapour and air barrier properties is an exciting regeneration project in Cardiff.  Lowfield Timber Frames specified SMARTPLY AIRTIGHT panels alongside a supply of their timber kits for a development of 12, two-bedroom houses in Heath, Cardiff.

Built to strict Passivhaus standards, the homes offer improved health and wellbeing conditions for occupants whilst requiring very low levels of energy for space heating or cooling. Additionally, using timber frame for the construction lowers the carbon footprint of the development.

One of the principal benefits of a Passivhaus build is the significant reduction in energy consumption during the operating life of the structure. This will ultimately lead to reduced energy costs, heating bills, and even lower carbon emissions for the planet.

Showcasing an impressive level of airtightness, the average air test result for the 12 homes in this development came in at below 0.5 ACH. Furthermore, a Larsen truss panel (a lightweight wall extension which creates extra wall space to a house insulation) was also used in the project. It was 330mm deep with the finished wall make-up being closer to 500mm, allowing for thicker insulation.

Darren Jarman, Managing Director of Lowfield Timber Frames, commented: “The Highfields scheme in Cardiff was just one of several Passivhaus schemes we have completed over the past two years. We now have an external wall build-up that not only meets the Passivhaus standards, but also has extremely low embodied carbon credentials.

“Whilst there are other products available which will achieve the airtightness, we feel SMARTPLY AIRTIGHT is the most robust solution available and eliminates the possibility of accidental damage, resulting in a failed test.”

For timber frame contractors, OSB that features integrated vapour control and air barrier properties will enable timber frame contractors to consistently achieve the stringent airtightness levels needed and create airtight, high performance building envelopes that surpass the new Future Homes Standard with ease.

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GRAHAM has initiated the construction of a £59m ($73.99m) low-carbon residential project in Edinburgh, named Burnet Point.

To be located in Abbey Lane, the project is claimed to be the first-ever mixed-use residential development of its kind by student accommodation provider Unite Students.

Unite Students group development director Tom Brewerton said: “This is the company’s first combined development of purpose-built student accommodation, build-to-rent and affordable housing. We look forward to contributing positively to the student and private rental market in Edinburgh to help address the supply-demand imbalance in the city.

“This development reflects Unite Students’ ongoing commitment to providing high-standard, affordable student accommodation in locations where demand is greatest.”

The project will utilise a low-carbon concrete and timber composite, an eco-friendly alternative to natural wood.

Burnet Point will feature 298 student bedrooms, including a variety of cluster and studio flats, with communal spaces and accessible landscaped roof areas.

In addition, the scheme will offer 66 flats for rent.

Of these, 17 units will be designated as affordable and managed by Hillcrest Homes.

The completion of Burnet Point is scheduled for September 2025, aligning with the 2025/2026 academic term.

GRAHAM Building North regional managing director Gary Holmes said: “Burnet Point is a unique project which prioritises sustainable construction.

“The demand for student accommodation continues to grow and the build-to-rent market remains buoyant, giving us a strong pipeline of projects in the coming years.”

Last month, GRAHAM, on behalf of Wirral Council, announced plans to initiate two motorway improvement schemes in Birkenhead’s town centre.

From Global Data


Telford College’s apprenticeships team is helping to signpost businesses to as much as £10,000 for each candidate which fills a much-needed skills gap in the sector.

“The Construction Industry Training Board has grants for approved apprenticeships at level two and above that focus on core construction skills needed across the industry,” said Telford College business development manager Chris Field.

“Employers are entitled to £2,500 a year through the CITB for attendance whilst completing the apprenticeship, payable in quarterly instalments.

“On top of this, there is also £3,500 achievement grant which is payable on completion of the full apprenticeship.

“For an apprenticeship which runs for two and a half or three years, that could add up to more than £10,000.

“You have to be a CITB registered employer to be entitled to this grant aid – for smaller-sized construction businesses, this is free. Even for the larger companies, it’s worthwhile and the membership fee is a tiny fraction of the incentives which are available.”

Telford College’s construction-related apprenticeships which qualify for the CITB grant support include property maintenance, bricklayer, groundworks, highways maintenance and road surfacing operative.

Chris added: “We are here to support employers every step of the way. We recognise that they are experts in construction industries – not in filling out paperwork for grant applications. That’s where we come in, with our experience and expertise.

“It’s about encouraging the next generation into the construction industry to keep pace with huge demand for skills.

“Construction companies might not know about the grant support which is available through these channels – or think it’s too good to be true and there must be a catch. There isn’t.”

He added: “We can liaise with industry bodies and help with the paperwork. You can trust us to manage the process and make it an easy process.”

From The Shropshire Star

Photo by Midland Heart Housing Ltd


Project 80 paves the way for a new era of sustainable residential construction

The brainchild of forward-thinking housing association, Midland Heart, Project 80’s design and construction has been significantly influenced by the Future Homes Standard, set to be introduced in 2025.

From the outset, Midland Heart was keen to meet all the requirements of the new regulations, which will see all new homes expected to produce a 75 to 80% reduction in carbon emissions compared to currently accepted levels.

The Future Homes Standard covers a wide range of criteria and the developer had to carefully plan every aspect of the build to ensure the lowest whole-life carbon performance. This ranged from the materials chosen and systems specified, through to the machinery used on-site and the fixtures, fittings and finishes in the property.

A low-carbon home also needs to be structurally safe, built to last and comfortable for the occupier. This meant balancing achieving the Future Homes Standards requirements without compromising the essential elements which comprise a quality home.

Fabric first housing 

The Future Homes Standard is set to usher in a new age of energy-efficient, low-emissions housing. Midland Heart was keen to ensure it met the stipulated low u-values on its upcoming developments, leading to the initial concept of Project 80 and the objective of delivering a  fully ‘Fabric First’ development.

As Tony Hopkin, Head of Construction & Quality at Midland Heart revealed: “Our residents are at the heart of everything we do, yet we’re also conscious of our environmental responsibility, so we wanted to build homes which not only protect people, but the planet too. So Project 80’s overarching aim became the elimination of any unintended consequences which would cause the properties to fall out of compliance with the Future Homes Standard, as this would have massive negative implications for potential occupiers, and Midland Heart.

Particularly, we wanted to show that, with the right materials and systems, achieving ultra-low u-values was entirely possible. By trialling different solutions, particularly the latest concrete and aircrete blocks, we were able to achieve u-values of 0.13, putting our properties comfortably within the Standard’s requirements.”

The West Midlands has a wealth of local block manufacturers and a rich heritage of block production. For this project, concrete blocks were manufactured by Shropshire-based Besblock and aircrete blocks were manufactured by H+H.

This blended approach not only achieved the required thermal efficiency, but the use of high-performance aircrete blocks, which are lightweight and easy to install, supported the air-tight structures and reduced the chance of thermal bridging. It also significantly sped up the construction process.

A material success 

To meet its aims of achieving Part L compliance, Midland Heart needed to specify materials that could deliver maximum efficiency, yet also deliver safe, secure, comfortable and affordable dwellings.

Furthermore, they were keen to work with local businesses, ensuring a small supply chain with the minimum amount of energy and fuel consumption possible.

As the project took shape, in the form of Eco Drive, comprising 12 new homes built using fabric first principles, Midland Heart, an advocate of traditional construction methods, embraced tried and tested cavity wall construction. A traditional method, they understood that this system would deliver the desired thermal efficiency without reinventing the wheel.

The 12 homes were delivered in 2022, and a report on resident evaluations of living and occupying the homes is due to publish in late 2023. The ongoing R&D programme will also include a detailed cost analysis, to identify areas for further gains in efficiency on later developments

Cementing concrete’s low carbon credentials 

Project 80 is providing definitive proof that concrete can play a crucial role in contemporary, sustainable housebuilding. It’s also proving there’s more to meeting sustainability requirements than upfront, embodied carbon.

That’s not all, the manufacturing process of the blocks used (Besblock’s Universal Star Performer in this case), helped Midland  Heart achieve homes that met the design brief’s 80% carbon reduction target providing significant embodied carbon savings.  Cured by energy from a nearby waste wood facility, using biomass boilers the products had significantly lower embodied carbon values than equivalent products.

Besblock’s use of SustainaCem cement, a pre-blended sustainable binder, and blocks cured using energy from a nearby waste wood facility, kept embodied emissions low, further reinforced by a local supply chain.

Tony Hopkin concluded, “Project 80’s vision has been to deliver high-performing but low-impact homes that are heavily tailored to resident needs. Technology and sustainability have been at the heart of this development to improve efficiency, but the fabric of the building was the starting point that needed to be addressed.

“Blockwork, whether concrete or aircrete, has very impressive whole-life carbon qualities which are often overlooked, but they are truly circular products that embody the core principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle. In partnering with them (Besblock and H+H), we found sustainable products that could adapt and flex according to the other low-carbon components selected to achieve homes fit for the Future Homes Standard.


With 15 years of experience in designing and manufacturing a comprehensive range of steel framing systems, Frameclad has grown in strength and stature. Founder Mark Munns has been on a mission to recruit the best of the best to the business. A mission that has been very successful – with three high-profile new signings in the last few weeks.

Following the arrival of Dan Payne, the new Regional Sales Manager for the South to the team last month, Frameclad’s latest top talent was revealed at Offsite Expo. Steel frame specialists Paul Kent and Andrew Land had their first outing, joining Mark Munns and Joint Managing Directors Nik Teagle and Martin Jamieson and the rest of the Frameclad team at the event.

Now Frameclad’s Regional Sales Manager for the Midlands, Paul has worked with some of the most prominent and well-established names in the light steel frame industry and will be well known to many. With an equally strong track record in the sector, Andrew Land joins Frameclad as Commercial and Estimating Manager.

As a leading BOPAS-accredited manufacturer of steel framing systems and components, Frameclad offers a complete package of services to customers. The business has invested significantly in state-of-the-art manufacturing technology and a 12 strong in-house design and engineering team provides cost estimates within 10 days and detailed designs within one week. The precision steel roll-forming machinery produces one of the largest ranges of steel sections available in the UK today from a single manufacturer.


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A pioneering cleantech company is set to unveil its prototype flatpack home built using sustainable and advanced materials after undergoing testing at a ground-breaking research facility in Greater Manchester.

Vector Homes is working with Energy House 2.0, part of the University of Salford, to develop its new rapid-build housing system.

The prototype is a low-carbon, one-bedroom bungalow measuring 40sq metres which has been constructed using recycled materials, including steel and plastics, as well as advanced materials such as graphene.

Vector is designing affordable, energy efficient homes with features including low-embodied carbon materials, infra-red heating, solar cells, breathable mould-resistant plaster and render, as well as embedded technology to provide smart environmental controls that efficiently measure and control the temperature, humidity and air quality in each room.

Its homes are designed for rapid production and assembly. Vector is looking to mass manufacture homes in a range of shapes and sizes which are sold as flatpacks to be built by a small team of people.

By incorporating graphene into the structures, the panels used in the construction of a Vector home have improved tensile strength, a greatly-reduced flame spread and increased UV resistance. Vector has worked with the University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre to develop ways of incorporating the material into its housing systems.

Vector is using the unique features of Energy House 2.0 to test the prototype’s thermal properties and its efficiency in different climates.

Energy House 2.0 can recreate temperatures from -20C to 40C, representing 95 per cent the inhabited earth, as well as recreating snow, wind, rain and solar energy to put the Vector home through its paces.

Launched earlier this year, the £16m Energy House 2.0, at the heart of the University of Salford’s Peel Park Campus, is globally unique and is helping to drive innovation in the housing sector already, through work with housebuilders Barratt and Bellway, and manufacturer Saint-Gobain.

Vector, which is led by chief executive Nathan Feddy and chief technical officer Dr Liam Britnell, has so far received backing from SFC Capital, GC Angels, the Greater Manchester Investment Fund which is the investment arm of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Innovate UK, the European Regional Development Fund and social housing investment firm HSPG.

Liam said: “Our mission is to cut carbon and costs in construction and our homes are designed to have 80 per cent fewer carbon emissions in the building process compared to a standard brick house.

“They are also designed to be dismantled rather than demolished at the end of life, with the components finding a second or even third life elsewhere.

From the microstructure to the superstructure of a Vector home, everything links back to efficiency and sustainability. Our homes will be super standardised to ensure the rapid production of components and assembly.

“The opportunity to work with Energy House 2.0 has been a dream come true. It’s a one-of-a-kind facility which enables testing for new types of construction methods.

“The Energy House 2.0 team have been incredible to work with, and in a few months’ time our housing system will have more empirical data than any other in the world. This will enable us to continue our iteration cycles to take Vector to the next level.”

The Vector Homes prototype will be officially unveiled at an open day and housewarming event on Thursday, September 21, which is being hosted in conjunction with specialist finance firm Together, for housing associations, local authorities, private developers, housebuilders and investors.

As well as showcasing the Vector Homes prototype, other digital technologies such as AI-assisted site planning, smart home and digital tools and other new materials will be exhibited.

Also exhibiting will be F&T Terrix, Ambion Heating and HAHN Plastics, which have provided mould-resistant plaster and render, infra-red heating and outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic respectively for the prototype.

Prof Will Swan, director of Energy House Labs, said: “This type of project is exactly what our unique Energy House 2.0 facility was built for. Vector Homes is an ambitious, innovative north west company and if we can help them to develop a new product which can provide cheap, safe and, most importantly, warm housing, then there will be huge benefits.”


Elliot Vure, director of corporate sales at Together, said: “We’ve been incredibly impressed with Vector’s vision to provide quality, sustainable and affordable housing, made from innovative materials.

“The prototype building that Vector has produced is a fantastic example of researchers and the private sector working in partnership, and we believe that Vector’s low-carbon, rapid-build homes can go some way to providing a solution to some of the UK’s future housing challenges.”

Housing is likely to be a key policy battleground for the next general election. The original 300,000 new homes target has never been hit and has been missed by at least a third year-on-year.

Some of the consistent solutions given to the UK’s housing crisis feature a combination of refurbishment and retrofit of existing homes, and new properties built using modern methods of construction (MMC).  However, big names in MMC have recently dropped away from the market, such as Legal & General, following a decision to close its modular housing factory, as well as Caledonian Modular and Urban Splash House.  Has this confidence in the ability of MMC to deliver considerable social and affordable housing been shaken?

There are positive stories to tell. These include the £70m investment raised by leading modular housebuilder TopHat to construct a new UK factory, and British Offsite’s move to a new £45m factory. Both companies plan to manufacture up to 4,000 new homes a year.

A dedicated framework solution
Underlining this confidence in the marketplace is LHC Procurement Group’s (LHC) recently announced £1.2bn Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) of New Homes (NH3) Framework. This construction framework for local authorities, social housing providers and other public bodies indicates a considerable level of confidence in MMC.

As the only framework provider with a dedicated MMC framework, LHC wants to help social housing providers in every part of the UK to deliver more homes much faster and with a lower environmental impact. Together with its MB2 framework, the NH3 framework covers the full range MMC categories.

Addressing a UK-wide need
Though the scale and speed in the increase of homes delivered by MMC are under question, when done well it has the power to reduce construction time by up to 50% – and the need for affordable and social housing shows no signs of slowing.  In England, statistics show there were 59,356 affordable homes delivered in 2021-22, compared to 7,644 for social rent. This is against a predicted need of 1.6 million households for social rented housing, according to National Housing Federation (NHF) statistics.  At the time of writing, the social housing stock in Wales stands at 237,395, and the latest statistics from Shelter Cymru show there are 67,000 households on housing waiting lists in the country.  Meanwhile, the Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) in Scotland commits to delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032 to help meet the need.

How NH3 facilitates MMC
NH3 is a vital addition to support more programmes to build low-carbon, modern homes from housing associations and local authorities across the country. It will adopt MMC and offsite techniques to produce energy efficient homes for the communities they serve.

It replaces the previous NH2 framework, which has so far enabled £93.5m-worth of offsite homes projects with a total forecast value of £277m.
Shaped by extensive engagement with housing contractors and manufacturers, NH3 has been developed to be a market-leading framework providing a wide range of systems and project delivery models to give public sector organisations the flexibility to deliver MMC projects the way they want.

Through NH3, LHC is looking to support the public sector to increase the use of modern methods of construction and deliver low and net zero-carbon homes with high levels of pre-manufactured value (PMV).