UK market attacked with Taxpayers money
£30m from Home Building Fund
Back in May Construction Index carried an article confirming that Sekisui House has set up in the UK with £22m of its own money and £30m from the government’s Home Building Fund, administered through Homes England.
Sekisui housing in China
Sekisui House is considered to be a pioneer of modern prefabrication methods, building houses in factories and delivering finished units to site for assembly. In the year to 31st January 2019 it made a profit of £900m on sales of more than £15bn. It is active in the USA, China, Singapore and Australia, as well as Japan.
Modular Urban Splash
The Japanese company has taken a 35% equity stake in Urban Splash’s modular House business. Used car dealer Noel McKee, founder of We Buy Any Car, has also invested in the new partnership and will take an incremental 5% stake. Noel McKee invested in Urban Splash last year along with television presenter George Clarke.
High Quality – Short Build Time
Sekisui House president Yoshihiro Nakai said:
“We are extremely pleased to be able to work together with Homes England and Urban Splash to establish our operations and help to create outstanding communities in the UK.
“Using modern methods of construction to build high quality homes with short build-times is one of our company’s great strengths. Our technology and know-how can help resolve pressing social issues in the UK, and I want to see us play our part effective immediately. These operations can also help bring vitality to UK regions, and we will work to make the strongest connections with the local communities.”
Japanese Disruptor Welcomed
Housing minister Kit Malthouse welcomed the arrival of the Japanese disruptor, saying:
“Sekisui House bring with them a proven track record in harnessing the modern methods of construction that are transforming home building. Backed by government investment, today’s announcement will support our urgent mission to deliver more, better and faster home construction to ensure a new generation can realise the dream of home ownership.”
Government Target >>> Increased Pace of Construction
Homes England chair Sir Edward Lister added:
“When Homes England launched last year we said we’d disrupt the housing market to increase the pace of construction. By helping bring one of the world’s largest and most innovative housebuilders to UK shores, we’re putting our money where our mouth is. By creating a more diverse landscape – where smaller builders such as Urban Splash get a stronger foothold – we’re rebuilding the building industry; driving up quality and improving consumer choice.”
Homes not Units for a Green Future
Urban Splash chairman Tom Bloxham said:
“We believe that there is a real opportunity in the UK housebuilding industry. We hope to leverage our 25 years of place-making experience and our recent investments into modular housing by bringing in new partners; having looked far and wide we chose Sekisui House from Japan because of the company’s unrivalled global experience in modular construction and shared values and philosophy that we are making homes not units, and a joint belief in the need for a green future.
“We are incredibly excited about the accelerated production of much-needed homes and evolving traditional practices as we embrace the benefits of innovative offsite construction. I hope it will establish us as the housing partner of choice for landowners – both public and private.”
Is UK ‘Off-Site’ Failing?
Clearly firms like Urban Splash and the Government think so. Many other countries, it seems, are already being treated to the high quality and speed of delivery that the Japanese provide. So what’s wrong with the UK? Is it traditional conservatism and reluctance to change? Reticence to invest in ‘new’ (albeit well established) technologies? Or the recognition that the UK Planning and Building Regulation regimes is and are a major bottleneck in both enabling and facilitating MMC, new materials and radically different designs?
Maybe it’s all of these
But we do have the know-how, technology and capacity to deliver anything and everything the Japanese, Chinese. Or anyone else can. UK firms just need the certainty of certain demand for 10 years or more without the Government – local, regional and national – cutting off the supply of sites and funds for implementing the pent-up growth they already recognise.
DfMA to the fore!
Whatever the case, to compete with this ‘invasion’ needs architectural designers to understand not just the inherent qualities of the material, but how this can be componentised to work as a structure. In turn this requires an appreciation of the way they are manufactured. Transported and assembled on-site. All of this entails a shift in thinking to what is now increasingly referred to as DfMA - Design for Manufacture & Assembly. This is already available via established ‘Off-Site’ manufacturers and is quickly and easily incorporated into procedures and processes of building and development. Better still, you can make partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all round benefits.
Technologically ‘SMART’ Homes
As Off-Site Construction matures into DfMA it is clearly at the forefront in turning construction workers into technical deliverer and enablers for such delivery. At the same time it is exceptionally well placed to incorporate rapidly increasing demand from buyers for their new homes to be ‘Smart’, e.g. by the incorporation of energy saving and TIoT (the internet of things) to deliver major components.
Greater Speed, Accuracy, Quality and Lower Costs via Collaborative Partnering
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers will accomplish this The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something w have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.