Innovation In Construction

To meet the UK’s chronic housing shortage, we need to rapidly increase housing supply across all tenure types. Otherwise, the government’s bold new housebuilding targets will fail to benefit people on low or modest incomes, who desperately need affordable housing. We’ve looked closely at the GLA’s recent report on offsite manufacture ‘Designed, Sealed, Delivered’. We’ve attended off-site manufacturing shows, consulted specialist architects, and we’ve been looking at a number of leading players including Premier Modular and Beattie Passivehaus.

While there are many distinct systems out there, one aspect they share is the speed of construction. Some models promise end to end build times of just 8 weeks. Since the quality is assured and consistent, homes can also be occupied more quickly. These methods are sure to feature in larger housing schemes, providing rapid, volume delivery. Even for smaller developers, some modular systems can still make efficient use of development finance, by reducing overall construction costs, reducing waste and ensuring the early achievement of revenue streams. For PHASES, the learnability of these systems means that they could provide important new training and employment opportunities for our trainees.

In terms of sustainability, most MMC models deliver green buildings that generally exceed regulation requirements for fabric efficiency. As well as helping the environment, an air-tight, well-insulated building can also significantly reduce home energy and maintenance costs. As utility bills continue to rise, many households will struggle to cope. For a community housing enterprise like PHASES, fuel poverty matters.

However, on traditional builds, the design stage calculations are frequently inconsistent with the measured performance of the finished building. This performance gap can arise at any point in the construction process. A lack of clarity in the detailed design report, poor packaging and procurement, low build quality, bad installation and product substitutions on site can all increase this performance gap. By utilizing prefabricated systems with consistent, quality assured tolerances, MMC can effectively eliminate the discrepancy between the designed and as-built performance.

This may become increasingly important into the future, as upcoming regulations will impose a minimum EPC energy performance rating for residential or commercial properties in the private rented sector, making it unlawful to let or lease a property with a poor rating. Added to this, recent research by Cambridge University has confirmed a link between EPC ratings and property prices. The most energy efficient homes in bands A and B, typically achieve a 14% higher resale value, when compared with similar properties in the worst performing band. This is certain to be welcome news to our stakeholders and partners, with whom we share the benefits of development.

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