Modular – partnerships, digital construction and reaching the climate goal

28 June 2021 | Investment

It is designed to give public sector construction clients easy access to modular buildings for hire and bespoke offsite solutions for permanent residential applications.

Commenting on the appointment, David Harris, managing director of Premier Modular, says: “Our success in so many lots and geographical regions on this prestigious and long-established framework highlights the scope, quality and diversity of our hire buildings and offsite construction solutions for public sector clients across the UK.”

“The framework allows public sector construction clients to radically reduce the time and cost of procurement, with the additional benefits of instant access to project data, guaranteed service levels, best value pricing, and faster project commencement.”

Dean Fazackerley, group procurement manager at LHC, adds: “Pre-approved suppliers such as Premier Modular have won their place on this framework based on the high quality of their work and the long-term value they can deliver.”

“The consistent quality of modular construction can help increase efficiency, lower lifetime costs and help local authorities, housing providers, and other public sector bodies achieve their net-zero targets by providing better fabric performance and solutions that deliver real social value and community benefits.”

ReSI LP expands affordable housing portfolio with £44m ilke Homes deal

Gresham House Residential Secure Income (ReSI LP) has agreed a £44 million deal with modular home developer ilke Homes for 153 factory-built homes in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex.

The deal comprises the freehold land acquisition and forward funding of 138 houses and 15 apartments, ranging from two to four bedrooms.

Planning permission was granted in March and work on-site is due to begin in late August, with the first handovers from March 2022.

The high-quality new homes will be delivered by ReSI LP’s Registered Provider ReSI Homes Limited as shared ownership properties. Through this deal, ReSI LP is providing 99 more affordable homes than required by the local authority planning permission.

The first forward funding deal for ReSI LP also marks its first endeavour into the modular construction development space. This approach is widely recognised as an innovative solution to the affordable housing crisis and offers the potential to accelerate the delivery of housing, improve quality control and deliver enhanced sustainability by minimising waste and increasing airtightness, as well as energy efficiency.

In line with ReSI LP’s commitment to sustainability and biodiversity, the project includes 2.6 hectares of green open space, which serves to enhance the ecological biodiversity of the site and provide a ‘desirable’ setting for future residents.

According to Gresham House’s investment director Alistair Wardell, the deal provides an ‘innovative and much-needed solution’ to the undersupply of shared ownership housing in the South East of England.

He says: “ReSI LP is committed to helping alleviate the affordable housing shortage in the UK and delivering sustainable and innovative solutions to this problem. This project will deliver real-world benefits to residents in Stanford-le-Hope early next year and we look forward to working with ilke Homes throughout the process to maximise the potential of the development.”

Dave Sheridan, executive chairman of ilke Homes, adds: “This investment from ReSI LP is testament to the growth of ilke Homes and the growing recognition of the potential of factory-built modular housing to address widespread regional housing shortages at speed and at scale.”

“This substantial injection of cash will enable us to deliver an outstanding selection of affordable homes to an underserved region without compromising on quality or sustainability.”

Venture capital trio invests £5m into digital construction firm

Three global venture capital firms have invested £5 million into Modulous, a London-based company developing digital solutions to modernise the design and construction of affordable and sustainable housing.

Modulous is an asset-light business with no factories. Instead, the company says its global supply chain and its investment in logistics will enable it to become more scalable and more responsive to the cyclical nature of housebuilding.

Blackhorn Ventures, CEMEX Ventures and GroundBreak Ventures have backed Modulous which has created a software platform to streamline design and overhaul the inefficient logistics that weigh down the sector.

Alongside its software platform, Modulous has developed a precision-engineered apartment product that enables high-quality, affordable, sustainable homes to be computer designed and delivered to a specific cost.

The new funding will expand the company’s building design team and grow its technology group in order to speed up the evolution of its software platform being developed. This will enable it to exploit digital technology in a bid to make delivering homes better in every way. 

The firm’s design software platform combines with its own modular building system – its kit of parts. This enables developers and housing associations to specify the sort of building they want, harvest local planning regulations to determine what is permitted and then quickly generate designs that accurately detail the precise cost.

Because every building component is mapped within the system, Modulous says it is possible to monitor and measure the carbon footprint of every single building on a mass scale. 

Sections of the building are supplied by a selection of high-quality supply chain partners, including Knauf, CEMEX, Ideal Standard and Ibstock. The software platform orchestrates the logistics to ensure that components arrive just in time and sequence – which can play a critical role in helping inflate construction companies’ margins.

The investment round was led by Blackhorn Ventures, a cutting-edge US fund with around $200 million under management in early-stage construction, transport and energy firms. It brings together the venture arm of the multi-billion dollar materials titan CEMEX and Toronto-based PropTech investor GroundBreak.

The deal represents the second rounds of investment from Blackhorn Ventures and CEMEX Ventures.

Chris Bone, chief executive officer of Modulous, comments: “Our digitally-led approach to project management and innovative ‘kit of parts’ platform delivers sustainable, high-quality housing at a fraction of the time of traditional construction.”

“As the costs of materials rise and profit margins are continually squeezed, Modulous provides partners with the end-to-end tools necessary to accurately estimate project costs, compress programme timescales and mitigate against the risks inherent in planning, design and implementation.”

“It’s a system that solves multiple problems plaguing the industry for decades, while engaging flexible, net zero-ready technologies that allow our partners to realise high-speed assembly and installation.”

Commentary – can sustainable homes help the government reach its climate goals?

Last week (June 24), the Climate Change Committee (CCC) released a new report examining the government’s net-zero and adaption targets.

The report states that the UK will miss its climate change goals by a ‘huge margin’ without new credible policies by 2024.

In light of the bleak news, Andrew Shepherd, managing director at TopHat Solutions, Joseph Daniels, chief executive officer of Etopia Group, and Chris Bone, chief executive officer of Modulous, share their views.

“The CCC’s prediction that the UK will miss climate change goals without new ‘credible’ policies by 2024 isn’t surprising at all,” says Shepherd.

“There is an urgent need for a larger focus on sustainable housing if the government is going to reach its climate goals. Further encouragement for the need of energy-efficient housing is certainly needed if the UK’s housebuilding sector wants to thrive in terms of sustainability.”

Shepherd mentions the need to build energy-efficient, sustainable homes today rather than ‘kicking the can further down the road’. “The housebuilding sector can help the government achieve its ambitious targets by delivering energy-efficient homes that do more good for the environment than harm,” he says.

“The built environment in the UK, which accounts for 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint, needs to continue to focus on new innovative methods for house building to help the government achieve its climate goals.”

Daniels adds: “It’s no surprise that the UK is predicted to miss climate change goals without new ‘credible’ policies by 2024 given that little concrete action is being taken to implement any tangible actions that will have a real impact.”

“Tackling climate change in a timely manner means action being taken now, and nowhere is this more true than in housing and real estate, which accounts for roughly 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint.”

According to Daniels, wider adoption of modular homes, which are on average 70% more energy-efficient than traditionally built homes, will be key.

“Further investment into slashing retrofitting costs will also be essential, and anything the government can do to incentivise homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient will be welcome.”

“Sensor technology, like Etopia’s ISLA, can help enormously by highlighting the areas of a home that are underperforming, therefore reducing the cost of retrofitting rooms that are already meeting energy standards. Policies that encourage the use of such technologies will make a huge difference when it comes to reaching net-zero targets.”

Bone believes the twin emergencies that confront us in housing and climate cannot be solved separately. “On the contrary, the CCC’s annual report underscores the urgency of adopting hybrid approaches that shift gear from mitigation to adaptation,” he notes.

“This means a comprehensive review of construction as a traditionally carbon-intensive industry and the role emerging technologies can play in delivering affordable homes faster and more sustainably.”

“An overhaul of old practices in favour of net-zero enabled solutions is the next logical step if we’re going to get serious with tackling both of these crises.“

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