TopHat Future-Proofing Newbuild Homes

15th March, 2021

Offsite construction is transforming the built environment and nowhere is that felt most in the housing sector, with volumetric modular methods providing huge opportunities for change. Andrew Shepherd, Managing Director at TopHat, talked to us about market developments.

Central to the successful implementation of innovative offsite construction methods is the adoption of technology and ‘automated manufacturing’ to deliver the UK’s oft-quoted requirement of 300,000 new homes annually? But how big are the opportunities for volumetric modular construction in addressing some of these numbers?

“There is no one-stop-shop solution to the housing crisis and modular housing certainly isn’t the solution all by itself – the last time we delivered over 300,000 was back in 1953,” says Andrew. “However, what it can offer is additionality and speed, helping the market grow, without impacting on the existing homes that we deliver. By manufacturing offsite along production lines, companies such as TopHat can bring homes to the market twice as fast as traditional methods, helping to speed up the delivery of much-needed 1 2 housing across the UK to get closer to the 300,000 new homes-a-year target as well as increasing productivity from a restricted workforce.”

The volumetric modular market has grown significantly in the last 3-5 years, with huge amounts of investment entering offsite manufacturing to fund new factories and innovative products. TopHat received a £75million investment from Goldman Sachs to help expand and scale the business – what are they doing differently and offering new compared to others operating in the marketplace? “TopHat’s patented technology means our products can be tailored so they can meet the local design requirements of a particular place,” says Andrew. “Much like the automotive and aviation sectors – or with the wardrobes you may buy in IKEA – the fundamental parts can be produced en-masse with high levels of quality assurance. Yet TopHat’s technology allows such parts to be customised, meaning it maintains quality and speed of delivery without having identical towns up and down the country. This is unique to TopHat and is a key point for our clients, as this means they can ask us to adjust our products to meet the requirements of local authorities and planning committees. TopHat also has a high level of automation in our manufacturing processes, which help deliver the high levels of tolerance and quality.”

Reshaping design perceptions of what modular homes look like and feel like to live in are important, with notions of temporary post-WW2 prefabs now long gone. Pressure now surrounds producing low carbon, sustainable homes ‘at quality but at low cost’, something that is not easy. The Government’s English Housing Survey recently revealed that there is an urgent need to improve the quality and energy efficiency of England’s homes. “Through the use of timber technology, we can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings,” says Andrew. “Such that one traditional masonry home has the same embedded carbon of 27 TopHat homes. We can also deliver zero-carbon homes, meaning they emit no carbon from utilities such as heating, water and electricity. This is done by utilising low-carbon technologies such as air source heat pumps and solar panels.

To read full article, go to Offsite Magazine issue 27!

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