Article written in partnership with:
Bromsgrove District Housing Trust
Building at speed
Challenge: Meeting housing demand in Bromsgrove
Solution: I-House housebuilding system
Outcome: 18 units built (as of May 2017)
There may be some disagreement as to the precise number, but generally the accepted consensus is that the UK currently needs to be delivering somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 new homes per year to keep up with current demand.
There are many barriers to the creation of new homes – such as a lack of funding, not enough available land, expensive materials and skills shortages.
One area that has been under particularly strong pressure in recent years is building homes for social rent. The rate of development slowed down to a snail’s pace and this has led to a growing demand for social homes.
Housing associations such as Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) are working tirelessly to provide more homes for social rent as fast as possible. One scheme which exemplifies their efforts is at Norton Farm in Bromsgrove.
The scheme, developed partly by Barratt Homes and partly by David Wilson Homes, will provide BDHT with 88 units for social rent.
The homes are being delivered through a Section 106 agreement, and the drivers for BDHT’s involvement were clear, says Calum Walmsley, development manager at BDHT.
“It’s within our main operating area; it’s a big strategic site for us to be involved in. We’ve got a massive housing need in Bromsgrove and it just ticks all the boxes really,” he says.
A further 38 shared ownership units are being developed for BDHT. The sales of these homes will be fed back into the landlord’s affordable homes development programme.
But with demand for homes so high, speed of delivery is key to the success of the project.
The 72 social rented and 26 shared ownership units developed by Barratt Homes will adopt a modern building method which is helping to reduce construction times significantly.
“It’s important our offsite technologies deliver an equivalent quality to traditional methods.”
Oliver Novakovic, technical and innovation director, Barratt Homes
The I-House, a collaboration between SIG Offsite and H+H UK, is a housebuilding system comprising the inner leaves of external cavity walls, floors, lintels, cavity closers, insulation and roof trusses, alongside soffit and fascia, to deliver the internal skin of a property which is fully wrapped and ready for follow-on trades.
Oliver Novakovic, technical and innovation director at Barratt Homes, says the company has been using the system on a number of trial schemes to test its suitability for Barratt and its stakeholders – such as Bromsgrove District Housing Trust – with Norton Farm being one such site.
“While these are full site applications we count them as trials because we’re still closely monitoring and measuring these sites to ensure we make the process efficient and the highest quality,” he says.
A draw for Barratt Homes for this particular system was its speed of delivery, Mr Novakovic says.
“We’ve got a good housing market with homes needed by our customers, so we’re looking at how we can deliver more efficiently. And it’s important for our new offsite technologies to deliver an equivalent quality to what we deliver now with traditional methods of construction.”
The main reason the I-House was selected for Norton Farm was its ability to overcome known challenges presented by the site.
“Steve Cartwright, our construction director in the West Midlands, felt the system would meet the key objectives of that site, which revolved around speed of build and certain labour availability,” Mr Novakovic adds.
The system is craned in, which reduces the need for on site labour. This is increasingly important as the sector faces an impending skills crisis and is one of the reasons Barratt Homes is trialling new systems.
The use of the system on the site for BDHT’s affordable homes came in part because of the housing association’s willingness to embrace new development methods.
“Barratt Homes said that they were proposing to use it on their private housing and asked whether we would be open to using it on ours,” says BDHT’s Mr Walmsley.
“They took us to a site in Banbury which they had already been working on. We viewed the product and saw it in action, and how it operated. Then obviously we had a lot of queries in respect to the National House Building Council, building control and mortgageability. But once [Barratt Homes] had provided all that information we took it to our board and got sign-off for it.”
The first phase of the project began in November 2016, and as of May 2017, 18 of the units had already been built.
The speed of delivery has impressed BDHT so far, Mr Walmsley says, especially as the system means that construction of each home, from foundations to roof, can be completed in just five days.
That speed is enabling BDHT to hand properties over to residents faster than it otherwise would have expected.
“The original contract was a five-year programme which has been accelerated by the use of the system, which enables us to let the properties sooner to our ever increasing waiting list,” he says.
The whole scheme is now projected to complete by the end of 2020, less than four years after it was started on site.
“We’ve been able to advertise properties ahead of programme and we’ve had a lot of interest from customers both from the sales perspective and also rental, which is great for us,” he adds.
In addition, progress on site is currently proceeding smoothly, Mr Walmsley confirms.
“Ultimately there will be about 50 units that Barratt will be handing over prior to April next year, which again is accelerated against the build programme. We’re really pleased with the speed of the units.”
Barratt Homes is also satisfied with the results achieved so far using the I-House system on its trial sites.
“It delivers a more holistic solution because you’re combining the floor, wall and roof. But probably just as importantly it’s doing that and delivering it faster, maintaining our quality and coming in at the right cost,” Mr Walmsley concludes.