The Hon Richard Evans had the enormous pleasure of taking part in a podcast with Dan Assor who has interviewed many high profile guests from around the world. Richard explained what drives him to succeed, his ambition to help solve the UK housing crisis, helping others, networking tips and what makes him tick etc.
Health support and supply critical to make the world go round. With further tremendous insult to our NHS by the government’s offer to increase wages 1% timber has increased cost up to 180% worldwide. Something is clearly wrong. The USA in a position to pay far more for timber leaving the UK to pick up the scraps.
The UK has made plausable progress with vaccination technology and a nationwide roll out in jabs and without our amazing Healthcare system – well it doesn’t bear thinking about the position we would be, the results have been incredible and we are all proud. However compared to the ongoing boring saga with our Housing Crisis the system in place is clearly wrong. Lack of investment for decades, a dramatic slow down and yet still the UK is only creating under 10% of homes using Modular Construction. Overseas countries including the Baltic States are ahead of the game by 30-40 years in actual delivery (to Scandinavia note who demand highest quality and speed of delivery) and whilst more investment comes in to the construction sector of late and homegrown Off-Site Manufacturers (OSM’s) there are still major problems we hear from suppliers including installers waiting months for payment from major players no names mentioned, backed by huge investment firms and deciding to not pay until taken to court – no specific reason given for slow payment. It is quite frankly a disgrace and we need to urgently adopt MMC where possible including Hybrid and collaborate worldwide ensuring we teach, we implement durable sustainable apprenticeships. News of huge frameworks published, the opinion of many that these will not be delivered to satisfaction on the basis of lack of experience – whose fault? A mix of government, lack of MMC education by too many and a distinct objection to anything new that saves time, creates better quality and delivers homes that our great nation deserves.
The UK has a fantastic workforce and ideal opportunity to learn from others, to share valuable experience.
If the UK had been head of the game with housing using MMC decades back we wouldn’t be in such a position now with our begging bowls reaching out further afield ever than before with Saw Mills who would let’s face it rather sell to the USA and other more profitable markets most probably – we may consider that short-term-ism on the basis that the UK is more stable and loyal but at the end of the day it is what it is and securing timber is incredibly challenging in this currently market.
We need to erase nepotism now, open ‘closed’ minds, deliver critical experience for leaders downwards to young people including travelling to Europe and further afield if required – which will create knowledge, jobs and homes for our great nation. Overseas investors are willing to invest in to joint ventures with Local Authorities, we know many that are keen to team with us to deliver affordable quality housing quickly without all the red tape. We have the most incredible work force but also close access to European world leaders in Off-Site Manufacturing. UK delivery teams are highly experienced but yet many architects and consultants fail to understand Modular, our experience (and partners) in UK housing and leisure has been shocking to say the least – including investors badly advised creating disasters from day one. For the very small majority that have ventured outside the UK to meet the super powers of OSM some have visited 1-3 which is no way near conclusive to form valid opinion and to consider the true merits of MMC. Majority of overseas OSM’s have not worked in the UK or have zero interest for multiple reasons but those that do are keen to support improving our housing crisis – combined with local talent we can create something rather special – alongside multiple build methods. Then we have some UK homebuilders insistent to use traditional for too long then finally agree to embrace OSM eventually investing hugely – yet their teams of management tell us they have little faith in the actual delivery of those factories – again no names mentioned.
It is all more than doable despite ‘smoke and mirror’s we endure still after many decades from various divisions of the construction sector. Mark Farmers report highlights many problems in what is an archaic British construction system which is shocking. Not only Local Authorities attempting to be all things including developers have had casualties including Merton Brick by Brick failure – the system is needs revolutionising to the benefit of our nation eradicating unnecessary profit racketeering by developers who deem contractors not worthy. Stick to what you know and embrace the worlds resources including state of the art OSM’s, attract overseas investment and create team focused project delivery.
To receive our paper on Affordable Housing please do email me direct.
Hat’s off to our UK government and NHS teams for achieving such high level success with 12 million vaccinations which is 16% of our population. It just goes to show what we as a nation are capable of achieving, a record breaking target achieved higher ‘per population per head’ than any other country in Europe! Amazing news.
With only roughly 9% of new houses built last year using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) our record for house building of late is a poor reminder of failure, it is now time to revolutionise our construction sector, create not only homes but mass employment opportunities. The government target of building over 3 million homes over 10 years will not happen unless we embrace radical change now. Possibly if you ask some politicians to the right they will tell you this ‘will happen’ and everything is absolutely fine and a reminder of how much investment they have made in UK Off-Site Manufacturing (OSM). The reality is we are struggling with lack of home-grown delivery experience, completed court cases, impending court cases, management issues and huge losses for some albeit backed by huge investment. Being on the ground ourselves we are well aware of payment issues, court cases (won) and horror stories for ‘some’ with regards to Health & Safety. Not saying no success rate, there are plenty of fantastic projects completed, yet far more awarded and yet to be completed using homegrown OSM. Awarding contracts is one thing, delivery is another but let’s remain positive and presume everything goes to plan with limited experience in OSM mass roll-out.
The last time we did it we created over 70 years ago, Sir Winston Churchills (God Bless him) dream using what now are considered sub-standard products, poor insulation etc yet some of which still stand today. He and his government delivered housing but now we have far more to build, to offer and deliver, quality homes that are built to last on mass modern scale for our growing population.
Boris now has a dream, to “Build Build Build” – the reality is the UK construction sector is outdated…broken and cannot do this alone
Having visited 50 of the worlds best state of the art Modular factories in the world it drives us to promote a better way of working to achieve a solution to conquer our housing crisis.
Collaborate with overseas proven OSM experts who have decades of experience building highest quality homes working with local delivery partners. Exchange information, learn from each other, unite.
Educate our capable workforce and create proficient training programmes including apprenticeships and academies which to date we have failed at. Invest not just money but time in to learning how to duplicate how the Baltic States, Germany, Italy’s vast contribution to modern methods of construction to Scandinavia alone.
Break down the barriers to change including lack of education, sheer nepotism and control. Put our governments ‘words in to action’ not false hopes.
The UK has some fantastic OSM’s and at the same time overseas companies must not make huge assumptions we do not have quality workforce, we have incredible talent and a history to prove the best engineers in the world, the key issue has been lack of investment for decades from government and lack of understanding by many in the construction sector what MMC represents. We know of plenty of overseas factories that have failed entering the UK which is a mix of lack of collaboration with local delivery partners, lack of understanding culture wise, ‘anti-overseas’, mass assumptions, mis-judgement and bad luck for all. We also know of others that have provide a perfect solution which are not so interesting to report in press – bad news is far more exciting to report. Some may consider Britain as the future to provide its’ own OSM factories however we need to build houses now, considering the time to build a fully operational factory can take years. A healthy mix of homegrown and overseas solutions creates balance and opportunities for all.
Building materials is a major issue, we ourselves have been able ourselves to provide construction timber to major UK organisations – timber from abroad including purchase from Russia, Baltic States now increasing from more countries including Slovenia, Germany and hopefully if we can come to a trade agreement Bosnia Herzegovina and others these coming months to bolster supply.
With effective collaboration, investment and focus we can cure this dreaded crisis, uniting, sharing experience, and adhering to UK standards & procedures to put our nation back in to a position of respectful power. Local authorities are part of this huge problem and need to contribute to our success in housing our nation – many questions remain unanswered the lack of delivery and cohesion warranted despite some improvement.
Pockets of success do not represent overall success.
We seem to be turning over several new pages in certain exciting aspects, with Brexit and the very encouraging news about potential vaccines for our worldwide pandemic. The UK is the first country to roll out a nationwide vaccination programme, as at Christmas around 800,000 vulnerable people already as our PM Boris proudly confirmed – which is of course commendable. Brexit gives us the tremendous opportunity to invest in our manufacturing, to invest in our agriculture and to invest in our infrastructure, in order to help make us more self-sufficient and we simply must of course invest in our construction industry. Historically the UK are renowned internationally for engineering expertise (goings back 100’s of years of course) and more recently such triumphs as the tunnelling of Crossrail under invaluable heritage sites as well as Channel Tunnel, HS2, and the new super-sewer being built under the River Thames – a 25km tunnel under London’s river that will prevent millions of tonnes of pollution that currently pollute the river every year.
This necessary expansion of London’s sewer network is due for completion in 2025, and is happening across 24 construction sites in London. These span from Acton in West London to Beckton in the East, and many are located on the river edge in the centre of the city.
The same intense focus is still needed to address solving our dreaded ongoing housing crisis, but the simple fact is the investment has come far too late and too little. The UK needs to urgently adopt a collaborative style of working towards achieving targets of building over 300,000 homes per year, every year, for the next decade – and we are falling well behind these targets already, living in somewhat a bubble of denial.
Gleaning knowledge from overseas experts, more capable Off-Site Manufacturers can lead to our own robust apprenticeships allowing us to compete on a level playing field
Apprenticeships are something we have failed to do successfully, utilising modern methods to help speed up and improve the production process all round. Whilst there are many small to medium sized factories in the UK, most are unproven – having been awarded substantial contracts many are going out of business. So why is that? I believe that it goes back to the lack of training and investment and nothing to do with our very able and hardworking workforce, including youngsters willing to work hard. I have worked in several countries and do not accept rumours the UK is work-shy given that we have ‘some’ of the most efficient automobile manufacturing factories in the world – FACT.
Collaboration with Baltic States – which have far stronger established proven ‘mega-plants’ -and over the last 30 years have built thousands of the highest quality homes for Scandinavia. For example one factory in Estonia has a massive 23,000 square metres of state-of-the-art world class technology manufacturing plant. It seems that our lack of commitment from the top down has cost us dearly. Despite all of the talk and hot air, we have lost our way in housing. Key players in our great nation have ignored modern methods of construction.
Lack of investment in education, training and manufacturing – including incentives to encourage apprenticeships by government.
Delays in changing outdates planning laws.
Lack of foresight by investors, considering the huge BTR market – millions of people simply cannot afford to buy and the ROI is very attractive in the UK
Lenders in the sector, such as some architects are not keeping up to date with technology in the market place, especially outside the UK. Tunnel vision focused purely on the UK’s OSM’s has limited their exposure to the Big Guns and huge gains possible in productivity.
Nepotism, existing relationships and sheer resistance to change which is a natural human trait
The big question is how we revolutionise the role of contractors. OSM disrupts the traditional contracting business model by shifting the value of a project to a factory. Now, a contractor charges a premium for coordinating the site-based processes but, under OSM, where “pre-manufactured value”, or PMV, starts dominating the overall project cost, what is left for the contractor to do, beyond enabling works and assembly?
Put the UK first, invest in our workforce, learn from others and place the UK in a Premier Division
Something I have been meaning to put together for a while despite a daily bombardment of blogs sharing our passion for Off-Site Manufacturing which one a month features on our website.
My own journey in OSM started 3.5 years ago. We previously ran successfully Europes Leading Print Management firm working with suppliers from 27 countries. We sold the company successfully in 2002 to a PLC for £42 million pounds who successfully managed dilute the firm in 12 months applying heavy handed tactics to suppliers and upset our loyalty clients, and since gone out of business. Since I have spent 16+ hour days touring the world meeting 50 OSM’s and deciding to be based in the Baltic States with easy access to a plethora of robust factories. Culture plays a huge part in trading effectively, understanding for example Soviet times and the effects on how it has shaped a country considering only 30 years ago many former countries have been playing catch up with Western style business. The Baltic States for example have a lot to offer, known for highest quality craftsmanship, lower cost base and high level engineering education and the younger generation becoming more impressive by the day. But let me say right now by the time transport is added overseas OSM is not much cheaper if at all and not all OSM’s are perfect by any means. Using MMC is more cost effective based on pre-lims and other obvious reasons including Health & Safety highlighted in my daily rants.
Key problems come to mind with OSM in the UK
Relationships – OSM’s overseas are far bigger and more experienced than homegrown start ups appearing the past few years. The lack of investment in to UK industry these decades including poorly delivered apprenticeships is clearly evident with the UK trying to play catch up. Despite investment and huge promises and unrealistic targets the UK is reliant upon international collaboration whether we like it or not. Now Covid has delivered a further huge blow to the world and the UK is suffering way over and above for example the Baltic States who have less people, density but made a faster move to efficiently delivering a tough regime to stop the pandemic accelerating compared to other countries but let’s not compare the UK to smaller populated countries – the UK had bad luck also. The problem is that many overseas OSM’s have no interest or experience in the UK and those that do are incredibly cautious who they spend time with – we managed to convert a few to see the light willing to deliver their superior product and are working on our own Joint Ventures put off by working with contractors who had no intention of embracing our supply chain using us for pricing. The UK construction industry is outdated as outlined by Mark Farmer’s report and we see the biggest problem is the lack of understanding by many architects, project managers, construction and development firms. Albeit technically expert in their field of traditional build without doubt many (not all!) are missing experience in delivery with OSM. More delivery firms such as our partners Modular Connexions are expanding and with the right momentum from investors and planning departments MMC will grow but not nearly at the rate one could expect. There is still a huge sticking point for many potential UK clients who basically just don’t understand the market and don’t wish to change the way it has always been done. Many OSM’s come in blind to the UK employing teams of Export Managers most of which may have not even visited the UK but educated themselves to speak English which doesn’t necessarily mean they understand our quirky unique British culture! Talk spreads like wildfire of very few disasters in OSM of which compared to success are tiny however bad news travels fast and is a lot more interesting.
Some get their fingers burnt spending years flying over at huge expense and then find out how brutal the UK construction industry is, sometimes for good reason. Some get it right but then decide to pull out as it is far more profitable with other markets including Scandinavia. Getting it right requires open minds, a willingness to do business and to act professionally and ethically. Consistency in sustainable contracts and commitment from all parties is critical.
Vast contracts have been allocated to UK firms who have never delivered in such scale which is deeply concerning, I hope for their and our nations sake they deliver these homes.
Biggest Mistakes made – attitude towards factories in general can be good to appalling. The OSM market despite the obvious requirements of quality, fit for purpose, assurances and price is all about Production Capacity. The factory holds the cards to who they work with so similar to the Timber Industry right now this is a ‘sellers market’ – many run out of patience with in-experienced architects etc by the day. Too often uneducated bullying folk demand prices per square metre without giving any information and then expect the factory to spend time ascertaining and guessing on their behalf spending weeks working for free. This is highly unprofessional, disrespectful and at the end of the day not the right way to build relationships. Anybody can make an uneducated guess then ramp up the price on extras which defeats the purpose of OSM where costs can be controlled far more effectively compared to traditional build. Don’t try to ‘out manoeuvre’ a factory, the likelihood is the aggressor will loose, play fair gain friends for life enabling mutual growth with the factory. Yes it’s about being Commercial but too many times we experience a lack of respect towards factories here in the Baltic States and other countries. It’s unethical and unacceptable. Times have changed and those that do not start to embrace ethical supply chain relationships will regret it. Traditional construction alone will not achieve 300,000+ homes per annum target set out by the Government, it takes a myriad of build technology including MMC: 3D Volumetric, Panels/Elements, Hybrid from a mix of sources homegrown (where applicable) and core overseas factories. This is not about being anti-Britain, this is about being realistic, patriotic and working together internationally accepting our strengths and weaknesses. Our own future plans are to create Academies or at least collaborate to teach young people to understand the merits of MMC and to help towards increasing UK manufacturers successfully. Britain has a hell of a lot to offer and indeed learn with adopting genuinely MMC. Eventually it may come but we need to provide sufficient data analysis on an ongoing basis working with open minds.
Production Capacity – the UK is very slowly indeed moving towards entertaining OSM, still only roughly 8% of new build uses MMC. Why? we all know the answers; lack of experience, existing relationships (some stagnant) and risk- or what they deem is risk when it isn’t at all and can be de-risked. Advancement with lender acceptance including BOPAS Accreditation is a big step forwards, we held an event with MACE and invited them to speak in late 2018 and attended their recent Webinar listening in from here in Lithuania. The key outcomes of that particular production were the UK is way behind the times. Lack of data has not helped MMC but now lenders especially the past 2 years have educated themselves in the main and investors of the build are demanding far more effective quicker better quality build to improve ROI, less maintenance and more value for money.
To understand the business one must understand ‘production capacity’ world-wide and appreciate we need their ‘capacity’ more than they need us, forget colonial style attitude towards Eastern European or Asian suppliers there to serve us – this is the 21st Century – we underestimated many countries including China and look at their tremendous growth. Let’s get building and support the governments intention, despite their disillusion of how. Without investment and modern application the UK will not be any further down the line in the next few years target wise proportionally. Without PEOPLE nothing will be achieved.
Build long lasting trusted relationships where everybody wins, not screwing the hell out of suppliers and expecting loyalty, forget it. Since Covid appeared people are valuing people more so and those that don’t radicalise the way they work will surely die in business.
Of course not every UK construction related firm can be accused of inappropriate behaviour towards OSM’s by any means but there are far too many that expect too much giving little commitment having no control over a project and demanding the impossible acting like Kings or Queens with no substance. Those that are professional, understanding and appreciative will win – we know plenty and are delighted to work with them. It is all about collaboration and fair trade -mutual respect and achieving delivery together in what is a sellers market.
To find out more about how we help clients inbox me and we shall send you our solution with pleasure. We are looking for joint ventures with local authorities as a priority and have a separate paper to present.
When Adversity appears Opportunity knocks – that’s life.
The leisure industry amongst others has taken a real hammering since the pandemic, for obvious reasons. However, lately the take up of Staycation has increased rapidly with holiday makers opting to travel local within 1-2 hours close to home.
Landowners are looking desperately to diversify creating much needed income
Modular construction has a huge role to play based on speed and highest quality products using different technologies from Elements to 3D Volumetric. From wooden to light gauge steel frame the Baltic States alone have been making modules for generations, built to handle extreme weather conditions these luxury pods provide a robust solution for an expanding requirement worldwide. Around the mid-1990’s modern day OSM accelerated to a more lean streamlined solution using state of the art technology. Combined with highly experienced architects, engineers, project leaders, factories & local delivery partners to hoist in to place on site the cost for high quality ‘leisure modules’ from the Baltic States are around 700-1200 euros per square metre plus groundworks, delivery & installation for a high quality module.
(Photo below around 35m2 1000 euros per square metre) – of course sizes & quality of build differ widely depending on specification – luxury ‘turnkey’ Norwegian style homes will cost around 2,500 euros per square metre (photo at very bottom). The savings made on ‘prelims’ by using MMC provide ‘points of difference’ to the way we build.
The UK uptake in using Modern Methods of Construction for new builds is incredibly low at just 8% albeit very slowly increasing 2021 onwards
Our European engineers experience is worldwide including impressive turnkey residential and commercial projects in Scandinavia (perhaps considered ‘The Kings of Modular’) both leisure and large residential city developments utilising modern methods of construction. Considering the critical state of housing in the UK alone (300,000 homes needed per annum) there is a huge need for modern methods in what is a risk adverse industry unfortunately decades behind. We are failing to achieve such targets over a 10 year period moving forwards – why? It is all very doable only if people accept change.
Our friend Mark Farmer’s 2016 report Modernise or Die identifies the significant problems in the United Kingdom with our construction industry. Inbox me for our MMC Solution paper.
Being based in the heart of ‘the modular world’ here in Lithuania gives you a distinct advantage with access to over 50 ‘proven’ Off-Site Manufacturers Europe & Asia wide; Architects, Engineers, Project Leaders & Local Delivery Partners are a vital component to achieving success. We have a big presence in the UK also so happy to meet or Zoom call etc whichever your choice considering Covid times.
Keep safe & healthy in these distinct times of adversity!
The Leisure industry could easily lead the way in MMC
During the past few years the UK has heard every excuse in the book by some not to adopt Modern Methods of Construction. Partly a result of distinct lack of education, training and investment with only 8% of UK housing built using MMC.
Many large construction development firms conducting what they consider professional in-depth MMC reviews visiting factories in the UK (4-5 relatively small compared to overseas), perhaps 1-2 mega-plant OSM’s in Poland, and even perhaps one or two in Latvia is no way sufficient to understand the worldwide current market and how to operate/trade within it. The word ‘partner’ is overused in many sectors, particularly construction where suppliers can often be looked down upon which is unacceptable. Building trust, we all appreciate surely takes more than one’ red carpet’ visit.
It’s a sellers market, genuine partnerships are critical to ensure success
The past 3 years we, ACE Modular Construction, have visited 50 Off-Site Manufacturers, mostly overseas in Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Asia etc multiple times, constantly impressed with highest levels of quality and ability to adapt to any countries specific regulations & standards. I personally decided to re-locate to the Baltic’s full time on the basis being on the doorstep of the finest OSM and better quality of life. Is it built to British standards we are asked? We say NO, it is better!
There is still total some confusion with terminology using the word ‘modular’ alone which can consist of either a multitude of panel types (including concrete, wood & steel) or 3D volumetric (which most consider as modular) which is built up to around 95% complete modules in the factory or even bathroom & kitchen pods installed in to traditional build to help speed up the process – what we call a hybrid solution. (See my previous blogs that go in to significant detail)
We prefer to use the word MMC which incorporates OSM which can include Modular as a potential solution.
The word ‘Prefabrication’ is reminiscent of Post WW2 cheap housing built to last 10 years introduced by Sir Winston Churchill 75 years ago. The polar opposite in 2020 including quality and valid warranties. In a recent blog posting I experienced “we have houses that are 600 years old in the UK with modular you cannot do that” – a ridiculous comment for a multitude of reasons. With a dire shortage of 3.4million homes in the UK we do not need to build houses that last 600 years. We work with a German OSM that has been in business for 115 successful years that build robust concrete modules which will last a very long time put it that way. Warranties are not an issue.
Albeit a significant increase of late with more factories opening there are only 4-5 substantial factories in the UK, due to serious lack of investment previously by government in particular. Despite more serious government commitment more recently it’s too late to be able to help solve the UK Housing Crisis alone, overseas OSM’s are plenty, highly more experienced for the past few decades when the UK was still building using bricks. Significant uptake in Scandinavia, Germany and other countries has given the Baltic States alone an advantage to upscale, cash in and perfect their delivery. Whilst it is fantastic news the UK are increasing production they haven’t experienced mass scale delivery in housing. It’s not easy to get a factory fully operational and the huge risks attached are not for the faint hearted. I commend those that have created impressive factories in the UK and genuinely want Britain to succeed and adopt whole heartedly the merits of MMC, let alone job creation. We have failed miserably with modern day apprenticeships and now is time to change that. We have huge potential with a hardworking British nation.
Contractors, architects and costs consultants not all aware of the current condition of the OSM market, what’s available and in particular production capacity. The key issue is that most overseas OSM’s are very nervous of the UK and can make more profit working in Norway & Sweden etc. We convinced some to come to the UK but it’s a case of creating mutual trust and embracing UK delivery partners such as Modular Connexions.
Modular construction is predominantly no cheaper that traditional construction, time saved with prelims is where the cost efficiencies can improve ROI by saving time. Wild statements from some OSM’s claiming time savings of 50% are totally misleading, possibly products from leaving the factory to delivery on site counts as 50% but generally the time you can shave off is closer to around 25% in reality. That to an investor is very attractive let alone far better quality built in warm factory conditions not cold and wet, and also Health & Safety is a major issue.
Lenders out of touch, albeit it appears pockets of self education have improved the past year slowly. Lack of published information hasn’t helped on the basis of little use of MMC in the UK. Below’s article gives us hope for mass improvement and some very interesting yet shocking statistics.
More investment (in the right places) not just from government but investors creating more OSM facilities in the UK, consideration for expansion from overseas firms to part produce in Britain where possible. We questions decisions made by Homes England previously.
Collaboration with overseas OSM’s utilising highly experienced European trained UK delivery partners – working together utilising each others strengths.
Consideration for many techniques using MMC, blended solutions from panels, light gauge steel frame to 3D Volumetric.
Readily available factual information for all, including addressing lender concerns and promoting training, including visits to UK and overseas OSM’s.
Open minds, collaborative and honest approach to providing best solutions for housing.
Adopt highest measures of Health & Safety ensuring best quality conditions for workers.
“The greater the level of detailed information available on MMC homes, the greater the confidence we can have in them as valuers, addressing any lender concerns. In time, as MMC becomes more accepted, MMC homes will be able to play their full part in boosting affordable housing delivery” reports Catherine Smith, Director at Savills
“There has been significant progress in recent weeks regarding the use of homes built using modern methods of construction (MMC) as loan security. Does this mean greater financial capacity is being unlocked in housing associations? Potentially. So, what is going on here and what valuation pointers are there for housing providers keen to increase the number of MMC homes they build?
She points out that “MMC homes to allow more affordable homes to be built more quickly and cost-effectively, the total number of MMC homes built each year remains relatively low.
“around 15,000 factory-built homes completed in the UK each year. This is around 7-8% of the roughly 200,000 homes that are built annual in the UK”
There is a unique opportunity to solve our housing crisis only via adversity it seems, an acute focus by UK government, in words at least, to build our way out of recession but only with significant investment from outside.
Entrepreneur, Philanthropist John Caudwell (who I admire greatly & have met at least a couple of times in the most random places including ‘Animal Flower Cave’ near our home in Barbados) urging government to invest heavily “intelligently” towards £1 Trillion and personally predicts up to 4 million unemployment….I have economist/investment friends insisting potentially a lot more. With 2 adult daughters myself out of work for a period both had to think fast on their feet, one leaving the movie business (amazing top job she worked damm hard to get with a world leader in prosthetics responsible for Harry Potter & any other movie you could think of) and re-training herself in local poorly paid healthcare for the time being whilst also running her new business at weekends/evenings. My fear is for our young population, some of which have absolutely no idea what is to come.
Boris Johnson our Prime Minister, along with shocking multiple U-Turn’s has finally pledged to “Build Build Build” which can only be good news for society. But what are the show stoppers? Only us! Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) is the answer.
Winston Churchill, hero to some including me, had a similar pledge to re-house our nation back in the 1940’s, the solution was pre-fabrication via off-site manufacturing (OSM), homes built to last for 10 years, some of which still standing today. Pre-fabrication became a very dirty word for the UK based on poor insulation and quality in general, then we had the 1960’s Soviet style concrete monstrosities (designed by so called Architects) also still standing and riddled with danger to this day. The problem is a large proportion of the construction sector doesn’t really understand the capabilities of modern day OSM indeed ‘some’ protective of their outdated position. Similar to the invention of Apple Mac’s back in the day in the print world (our business) near 30 years back we experienced the demise of similar ‘dinosaurs’ sticking to their guns and to their peril I am afraid.
We can put the UK back on the map, easily, it’s the 21st Century, huge demand for housing and a mass pool of incredible British talent no doubt – but support from overseas collaboration is critical with huge investment & ‘off-site manufacturing armoury’. Of course not all the build needs to be 3D volumetric (often referred to as Modular built 95% off-site/completed homes) it will consist of a healthy mix of panellised solutions (nothing new to the UK) and latest hybrid product technology, including bathroom pods for example. The UK has many quality homegrown solutions and a hard working ethic, granted, but not to the level needed to build millions of homes. We cannot do this alone and the government could have easily avoided this decades ago investing in our industry following the likes of the Baltic’s, Germany and other MMC world leaders.
Let’s invest heavily & intelligently as Mr Caudwell says – build our way robustly through this storm utilising state of the art modern methods:- built to last
Our outdated construction industry must open up its eyes and genuinely embrace MMC finally – lenders have dragged their heels and are partly responsible for holding back our country surely? – they need to be held to account but more importantly educate themselves with MMC. We need homes for the people not even more luxury apartments which developers preferred to build for obvious reason, with distinct recent changes in planning long over due we hope that delivery will happen with genuine support from planning departments.
Questions: how many of these lenders have actually been to an off-site manufacture? And not just in the UK (who are tiny in comparison to the Baltic’s alone)? Have they toured extensively worldwide state of the art facilities? Have they visited completed projects and asked the tenants what the living experience is like? Investors are also winning with better ROI and sustainable product. What is their specific knowledge of our sector? Are they qualified?? Why has it taken so long? Fit for purpose? They caused us major problems now will they fix them?
Inbox me for our solution for Affordable Housing aimed at creating joint ventures with local authorities, housing associations, investors, MMC and local delivery partners. Our longer term goal is to establish academies for young people to learn with more emphasis on apprenticeship experienced based learning. We have many investors poised to add value to our great nation.
With very little production capacity in the UK collaboration with overseas OSM’s is helping towards solving our dreaded housing crisis. But only a turnkey solution under one entity taking risk & ensuring total protection is being demanded by clients including developers, investors & some contractors. It seems still far too often never the twain shall meet between highly experienced construction professionals & Off-Site Manufacturers – this has to change, our current antiquated construction industry needs to move to the 21st Century collaborating with overseas OSM’s where practicably possible. Investors are most definitely losing patience wanting faster & higher quality build which is creating positive friction. And whilst the country isn’t really ready for Volumetric let’s face it, Hybrid solutions are being utilised rapidly merging traditional build with various pods & elements partly produced offsite & some assembled on site where possible aiming to avoid standardisation. OSM’s fast losing patience with UK tyre kickers/time-wasters who don’t understand the process is no cheaper but the benefits are developments can be built far quicker so therefore better value and increased IRR, less problems on site, higher quality and not affected by adverse weather conditions.
It’s not rocket science but the biggest problem we endure is the serious lack of knowledge in the main, the fact that the UK doesn’t have appropriate experience still after much bravado in the press where factories are promised but still not yet in production and constrained by lack of scaleability and skill-set. Aside of 20 factories in the UK whose net profit ranges from a huge loss of 2400% to a positive of a mere 13% – collaboration makes so much sense, going it alone is a high risk strategy and cash flow is king not unless our government steps in to support those suffering factories who are likely to go out of business. Winding up orders being considered to many that are simply not paying the bills to suppliers we have experienced of late, debts going back 18 months or more. Of 35 factories we have visited across 6 countries we have 5 preferred key suppliers, all heavily backed financially, oodles of capacity, opportunity to add on more factory space, decades of sheer experience and willing to joint venture with the UK, some taking risk of participating financially which makes sense to developers.
Call me for a turnkey low risk solution, capable of delivery.
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Muhammad Ali
At present, the use of MMC in housebuilding is low and the government will need to act quickly if it is to make an impact in meeting housebuilding targets. Supply chain capacity will need to be increased, and greater focus placed on ensuring the workforce has the required skillset for developing technologies. The government should work with Homes England and training centres, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, to develop targeted programmes targeted for use in the manufacture of MMC homes, says the committee.
Initial work to develop centres of excellence, bringing together businesses and academia to support innovation, is welcome but could be strengthened by coordinating with the Transforming Construction Programme and Construction Innovation Hub. These networks could form an ideal arena for testing and standardisation of MMC processes and components, as well as ensuring they comply with building regulations. The government will also need to improve data collection and sharing if it is to overcome reluctance to utilise MMC among lenders, insurers and home buyers. To gain the confidence of the industry as a whole, as well as consumers, the committee has said they must establish a database of MMC homes to demonstrate the long-term value and durability of MMC.
The committee backs the creation of an ‘MMC Scheme’, setting out a single set of standards for warranty providers, to provide greater certainty. Expansion of MMC faces many additional challenges including difficulties accessing land to build on, opaque and confusing building regulations and high upfront costs. The government should investigate the specific impact of the current regulatory systems and access to funding on MMC, and consider options for measures designed to overcome existing barriers.
See below our partners project in Slough, 9 apartments over 3 storeys, consisting of 21 modules, GLA 750m2
Chair of the housing, communities and local government committee, Clive Betts, said: “If the government is to have any chance of meeting its target of 300,000 new homes a year it cannot simply rely on traditional methods of construction. They must make a serious effort to support the use of new and emerging technologies that have the potential to have a transformative impact on the speed, cost and quality of home building. This is not simply about shifting production away from the building site and into factories. It is about seizing opportunities that modern technologies allow, whether it be precision manufacturing, use of new materials or digital working. First and foremost they must create the conditions to improve investor and consumer confidence. Reluctance is understandable. The perception is that the building innovations of the sixties created homes that failed to survive half a century, while rows of Victorian terraces are still standing. Proving quality and longevity will be key. That is why we have called on the government to collect and publish the data that prove new building methods work, and also show if they have failed. The government will also need to support the industry to grow the capacity needed for MMC to play a greater role in national housebuilding. They will need to ensure that the right training schemes and apprenticeships are in place so that we have the skilled workforce that can utilise MMC techniques. They must also work with the industry to support the development of robust supply chains and support innovative businesses develop. The housing system is in urgent need of a major boost and if the government is to have any chance of meeting its ambitious target it must grasp every opportunity new technologies allow. But they must act fast and act now.”
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