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Agenda item

Modern Methods of Construction Presentation

To receive a presentation from Bromford Housing in respect of Modern Methods of Construction.

Minutes:

94.1          The Head of Community Services welcomed the representative from Bromford to the meeting and indicated that he had been invited by the Chief Executive to give a presentation to Members on Modern Methods of Construction, both in general and in terms of what was being done by Bromford.

94.2              The following key points were made during the presentation:

·           Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Overview – Long term projection of worsening skills shortage within the construction industry; Brexit presenting further risks towards the construction workforce across the UK being migrant labour; supporting housing organisations in achieving their sustainability and carbon reduction agenda; supporting local authorities to embrace MMC delivery through their climate emergency and housing delivery agenda; Homes England driver to introduce MMC through partnering arrangement; contribute towards the desired new homes outputs within business plans; cited benefits of the MMC – increased outputs, reduced delivery timeframes, increased quality, improved Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), reduced waste, less deliveries and disruption to surrounding communities; standardisation of design to achieve the desired business financial returns through an MMC appraisal approach.

·           MMC Categories – Pre-manufacturing (3D primary structural systems); pre-manufacturing (2D primary structural systems); pre-manufacturing components (non-systemised primary structure); additive manufacturing (structural and non-structural); pre-manufacturing (non-structural assemblies and sub-assemblies); traditional building product-led site labour reductio/productivity improvements; site process-led site labour reduction/productivity/assurance improvements.

·           Types of MMC – Volumetric construction, pods, panelised systems, sub-assemblies and components and site-based MMC.

·           MMC Quality Assurance – Build Offsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) provided confidence that the construction system was fit for purpose; National House-Building Council (NHBC) assessed, reviewed and accepted nearly 50 MMC systems; Checkmate – warranty cover for MMC; Local Authority Building Control (LABC) – warranty practice scheme for MMC.

·           Factory Production and Quality Control – Homes assembled in controlled conditions – Factories could produce around 3,500 per year at peak; quality checkpoints at every stage of the process to ensure homes conformed to design and building control; once the structure was finished, it was insulated and fitted-out with internal walls and floor coverings, surface finishes, plumbing and sanitary ware, electrical circuits and sockets, kitchen and bathroom units and fittings.

·           Horizon Scanning – Outcomes: 2021 homes – assets rated against the new Bromford Standard, simplified planning rules, potentially less Section 106 Agreements, retrofits assessed against PAS2035, new build standards, uncertain market conditions; 2025 homes – Future Home Standards – high energy efficiency and low carbon heating in new homes, high speed broadband connectivity, increased fire safety regulation and compliance for flats, new homes 75-80% lower carbon emissions; 2030 homes – all private rented homes rated EPC C or above; 2050 homes – net zero carbon.

·           Carbon Reduction Challenges: How MMC will support the carbon reduction agenda – June 2022 – Part L 2021 – 31% reduction (new sites); June 2023 – Part L – 31% reduction (transitionals); 2025 – Future Homes Standards – 75-80% reduction; 2030 – zero carbon – 100% reduction; 2050 – zero carbon 100% reduction (including regulated energy).

·           Features of Zero Carbon Living – Ilke Homes could deliver net zero carbon living through the high performing external building fabric, water efficiency and LED lighting in combination with the introduction of a highly efficient air source heat pump and solar panels; smart metering and controls could be used to better understand and optimise comfort and energy use; integrated electric vehicle charging points enabled customers to complete their journey to an ‘all electric’ more sustainable lifestyle.

·           Homes England – What the fund will deliver (MMC) – The fund placed significant focus and investment on increasing the uptake and development of MMC which was crucial to tackling the productivity, skills and materials challenges faced by the house building industry and to drive improvements in quality, safety and sustainability; MMC requirements: expectation that a significant number of homes will be delivered using MMC technologies that promoted improvements in productivity and quality, included a 25% MMC requirement for all strategic partners, seven categories of MMC eligible as defined in the government’s MMC definition framework, recognised that building with MMC could be more expensive upfront (though often cheaper over the longer term) and looking at how this could best be reflected in the bid assessment process, want to understand the delivery constraints to using MMC and keen to hear from partners; what support Bromford can provide: increasing MMC manufacturing capability – provided loans and equity to expand the capacity of existing providers and brought new providers into the market e.g. £90m joint venture with Urban Splash and international housebuilder Sekisui House; matching supply and demand – help to join up the supply chain and aggregate demand for MMC ensuring consistency, certainty of supply and reduced costs; increase understanding and share best practice – currently undertaking a pilot study across several sites to test the benefits of a range of MMC technologies.

·           Social Housing Sector Update – Homes England Strategic Partnership 2021-26 – Homes England had committed almost £5.2bn funding in affordable housing grant to deliver nearly 90,000 grant-funded affordable homes; number of registered providers gaining grant – 31 strategic partnerships with 35 organisations; Bromford £239m – deliver an additional 4,000 homes (tenure types: social, affordable rent and shared ownership; percentage of MMC delivery varied across the strategic partnership bidders.

·           Bromford – Stockwell Feasibility – Working with Cotswold District Council on delivering 29 units within 12 months built to net zero; Forest of Dean District Council delivering 51 houses and six flats for Guinness Partnerships – would be an exemplar site for the county.

94.3           The Head of Community Services advised that, although MMC houses could be constructed quickly, that did not reflect the significant amount of work which went on in the background in terms of financing etc. but he was pleased to see that some schemes were now being delivered.  He welcomed the commitment to carbon reduction which would hugely benefit tenants and was preferable to retrofitting existing properties which was a mammoth task.  The presentation helped to demonstrate how quickly things were moving forward – only a few years ago replacing gas boilers was considered to be more efficient but there were now completely new ideas.

94.4           A Member noted from the design of the scheme in the Forest of Dean that the housing density seemed lower than in traditional estates, with more garden and green space, and she asked whether that was actually the case in reality.  The representative from Bromford explained that this was down to the planners and was dependent on the plans and location, but it was likely to be similar to a traditional site.  Another Member asked if there were any drawbacks in terms of prefabrication and the representative from Bromford indicated that there had been in the past but a lot of work had been done to get through the approval process.  In response to a query regarding the longevity of the properties, Members were advised that a traditional house was likely to last for two mortgage terms i.e. 60 years whereas mortgages were now being offered for three terms on modular housing i.e. 90 years.  Another Member noted that the manufacturers were unlikely to be around for that period of time and he asked what guarantees were given to mortgage providers that they were viable assets to invest in.  In response, the representative from Bromford explained this was offered through the accreditation.

94.5           A Member asked about the density of the foundations and was advised that traditional methods still tended to be used but there was a drive to use different methodology.  A Member questioned how easy it was to retrofit modular properties once they were built if technologies etc. were to change and the representative from Bromford indicated there were some restrictions but they could be adapted.  One of the advantages of modular housing was that pods could be replaced, for instance if a property was fire damaged, and additional pods could be added and removed which cost considerably less than a traditional extension; the roof could also be removed so properties could be made into townhouses if required.  A Member asked whether the soundproofing between properties was better than with traditional housing and was advised that the party wall insulation was much greater as two modular houses were effectively next to one another so there was double thickness.  The Member went on to ask how variety of design could be achieved and the representative from Bromford indicated that it was possible to be creative - modular housing tended to be made to look traditional which he did not think it should be, for instance, access into the roof space was not allowed so a traditional pitched roof was unnecessary.  Whilst the properties were fairly square, this maximised the space within them.  There were examples of schemes with different design, for instance, in Bicester, and Bromford was working with Cotswold District Council on that – if it could be achieved in the Cotswolds it could be achieved anywhere.

94.6           A Member questioned whether hydrogen power was something Bromford might be interested in and gave the example of a small scheme in Gateshead where houses had been fitted with hydrogen power and indicated there were plans next year for a community village.  The representative from Bromford advised that he was responsible for looking at innovation so that was something that would be considered if there was a particular interest in hydrogen.  There was a need to work on energy aggregation and energy sharing; new homes needed to be EPC A as it was difficult for energy sharing to be achieved on properties rated EPC D   or below.  He was working with innovators to see how this could be achieved across Bromford’s housing stock and expected a push from residents due to the rising energy costs.

94.7           A Member questioned when he could expect to see more of this type of housing within Tewkesbury borough and the representative advised that Bromford aimed to deliver circa 2,000 units per year and was keen to partner with Tewkesbury Borough Council to deliver units within the borough.  The intention was to deliver social rented properties and that was a key driver for Bromford.  The Head of Community Services provided assurance that the new Housing and Homelessness Strategy which was being recommended to Council for approval in April was focused on delivery of social rented properties which was a real priority for the Council.

94.8           The Vice-Chair in the chair thanked the representative from Bromford for their informative presentation and it was

RESOLVED          That the presentation on Modern Methods of Construction be NOTED.