Can Innovation in Construction Resolve the Housing Crisis?

27th January 2020

Can innovation in construction resolve the housing crisis? That was the question posed to guests at RNLI Poole during the Constructing Excellence South West conference on Friday (24th January).

The keynote speaker at the Modernise or Die conference, hosted by the Dorset branch of the Constructing Excellence Regional Partnership (CERP), was Mark Farmer, co-Chair of Constructing Excellence and independent champion for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

After a welcome address and brief about his vision for a new technology-based construction industry, Mark Farmer invited our Managing Director Steve Chivers and Paul Read from Magna Housing to the stage to deliver a best practice case study to guests about precision-engineered housing.

Magna Housing, based in Dorchester, has formed a unique partnership with us, which involves the development of seven initial residential sites that are no more than an hour from our state-of-the-art factory in Wimborne, Dorset.

The Magna remit for our designers was to mirror the Magna portfolio to build homes their residents want: attractive, affordable and healthy. In addition to this, precision engineering will enable us to deliver homes with enhanced energy efficiencies, noise transfer and fire performance promoting a feeling of quality and safety in well designed homes set within attractive streets.

In October 2016 Mark delivered an independent review of the UK construction labour market entitled Modernise or Die jointly sponsored by BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) and published by the Construction Leadership Council.

The report’s findings led Mark to champion a gradual move in the UK towards more pre-manufacture-led construction delivery in a bid to improve productivity and predictability for clients – something that Rollalong wholeheartedly supports.

Mark Farmer said: “Today was a really good event and an opportunity for a wider audience in Dorset to hear about some really innovative thinking that’s been going on – particularly the partnership between Rollalong and Magna Housing.

“Steve and Paul presented the journey they’ve been on in creating a strategic partnership. Magna was a housing association that wanted to engage with MMC but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

“Their journey is a really interesting template to follow. Magna has provided the brief and Rollalong have created a range of house types that can be varied with cladding materials, roof types and so on. This enables them to be used in a whole range of locations across the Magna porftiolio in Dorset.

“It was a really insightful session and I learned a lot that I want to share as the Government’s MMC champion that can be used elsewhere in the country.

“My role is about making sure good practice is supported. After this morning there’s  a really good opportunity to shine a light on some of the great stuff that’s been happening and share it more widely.”

Our partnership with Magna Housing, procurement specialists LHC and consultants CAMS will promote a ‘modular first’ solution which is supportive of a collaborative approach to assisting in solving the current housing crisis.

Steve Chivers, Managing Director at Rollalong, added: “I see this as a golden opportunity to change the nature and perception of what it is to work within the construction industry.

“This is a great opportunity to attract the next generation of multi-skilled workers to design and manufacture homes in our Dorset-based factory, reducing disruption to local residents and condensing construction timescales to solve the desperate requirement for homes across the south of England.”

Paul Read added: “I was delighted to share the partnership we have developed with Rollalong with Constructing Excellence colleagues in Dorset this week.  By working in this new and innovative way we are speeding up our timescales, delivering high quality homes for our local residents and reducing our carbon footprint in the process.

“For Magna this is all about getting it right for the people living in homes we offer for rent and sale, maximising their feeling of safety and security in their home with desirable designs that work in the local context.

“We are in discussion with other clients, consultants and Rollalong as we all find our way with offsite manufacturing in the residential sector. Magna has already delivered proof of concept in our demonstration home and ordered 45 homes, with 38 of those in storage awaiting delivery to site and the balance in manufacture.

“Over the next 12 months we aim to do even more and deliver a client cluster to develop the system and homes for the future, reducing costs to residents in use and to increase production fourfold and benefit from productivity gains in so doing.”

The conference will be followed later in the year by a tour of the Rollalong manufacturing facility by Mark Farmer on 2nd April 2020.

Pictured at the event are Rollalong MD Steve Chivers (centre) with Mark Farmer, Co-Chair of Constructing Excellence (right) and Paul Read from Magna Housing (left).