Modular - putting the money where it matters

2nd December, 2019

In the twelve months since the last Modular Matters conference, the political and investment landscape has changed beyond recognition. Whilst the national media focuses on the political wranglings surrounding BREXIT and more recently, the election – it is necessary to dig deeper to uncover the major changes that are taking place in the construction industry.

And that was the objective of this year's Modular Matters event – to bring to the fore the significant advances that are taking place in volumetric modular building techniques by gathering those who are making great transformational technical and commercial leaps to advance the construction industry. 2019 has been a year of major announcements: Banking giant Goldman Sachs investing £75million into modular housing business, TopHat.

Japan's biggest housebuilder entering the UK modular housing market after striking a multi-millionpound deal that will see Sekisui House partner with Homes England and Urban Splash to bring forward thousands of properties across England. This agreement will also see a £55million investment into UrbanSplash but the largest deal by far was revealed by ilke Homes' involving the commissioning of a second manufacturing facility based on a £100million agreement with Places  for People.

But beyond these big money headlines there is a lot more going on. Delegates were genuinely surprised by the level of research, detail and industry understanding that Amy Crick's presentation from Barclays Bank revealed. Outlining Barclays' investment and funding strategy,  under the banner of Financing Modular Construction, she emphasized that addressing the housing shortage is a political priority and there is increasing policy support for innovative methods to unlock supply.

Another monumental shift that is taking place and made very evident on the day, is the transformational change in working practises. A frequent criticism laid at the door of traditional construction methodologies, is how disparate parts of build teams work in isolation with very little communication. Contemporary techniques have transformed this outdated approach and presentations involving both clients and modular manufacturers were a focal point of  the Modular Matters event. Places for People, one of Britain's biggest housing associations recently announced a £100million pioneering joint venture with ilke Homes to deliver hundreds of modular houses, as confidence in offsite manufacturing grows. In the largest deal yet for Britain's modular housing sector, Places for People will purchase  750 units from ilke Homes, including 500 for sites it already owns and  250 for new affordable and marketpriced housing schemes that they will develop together.

Speakers Dave Sheridan from ilke Homes and Chris Spiceley from Places for People detailed how the supplier and client affiliation has been taken to the next level by forming a joint venture partnership which incorporates all aspects of the development including finance through a project bank account. Under the banner of Modular Manufacturing Can Drive Growth and Investment in the Regions, the duo outlined their strategy and how they intend to establish long term partnerships with shared values and outcomes. Volumetric modular solutions are becoming increasingly commercially viable – structural engineers and architects are now designing and engineering for high-rise modular buildings. It is clear that economies of scale are being realised and modular construction is becoming a truly sustainable alternative to traditional techniques.

The change in approach is evident among construction sector CEOs, as many leaders see technology-based disruptors entering the arena and realising it is now the time to reinvent and reposition. In their presentation – Minimising Development Disruption on Infill Sites for Affordable Housing Using Volumetric Modular Technology – Brian Maunder from Totally Modular together with Richard Whittaker from the Citizen Housing Association, demonstrated how their collaborative approach was minimising disruption and combatting fuel poverty. Through this alliance Citizen Housing is realising ambitions to deliver alternative high quality offsite manufactured modular homes that mitigate the risks of disruption and traditional skills shortages together with reducing the quality control issues associated with conventional build routes. In summing up they shared how this modular housing programme will benefit tenants through combatting fuel poverty and promoting longer more sustainable tenancies together with taking a solid step into the Zero Carbon 2050 journey.

Paul Tierney of ESS Modular felt so passionately about their Spectrum development in north west London that he broke his 'presenting boycott' to take centre stage at Modular Matters to deliver a project case study alongside the developer - Neel Khiroya from Excelsior Homes. Excelsior's vision was pure and simple: to create homes that are beautiful in design, build and finish and beautiful to live in. In their presentation Spectrum: A Modular Build – Contemporary Design, Exceptional Living, Paul and Neel took delegates through their collaborative working and funding model and discussed the developer and modular contractor's experience and how they delivered 42 quality apartments that had the residents living experience at the centre of every decision.

The conference culminated with the launch of the Volumetric Homes Group – created to represent those who are at the forefront of volumetric modular manufacturing in the residential sector. The working group will support the needs of the expanding housing sector and respond to the technology demands. Whilst affiliated with the Modular & Portable Building Association (MPBA), the Volumetric Homes Group has autonomy to set its own agenda and discussion topics - engaging with government and other industry stakeholders. 

For more information on Modular Matters  and to view the event photo gallery go to:

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