At the top of the world
Our modular housing revolution is seeing thousands of green homes rising from the production line, says DEBORAH STONE
MODEL Kate Moss, musician Stormzy and artist Tracey Emin are all products of Croydon but now the south London satellite city has a bigger claim to fame: the world’s tallest modular residential building. The 44-storey tower block – as tall as the London Eye at almost 450ft – took just 35 weeks to install after the modules were delivered to the site and stands next to a sister tower of 38 storeys.
Meanwhile in North Yorkshire, 2,000 modular homes will have rolled off the production line at ilke Homes’ factory in Knaresborough by next year, rising to an annual 5,000 homes in the next five years.
These modular homes are part of a government-backed, green housing revolution that aims to make Britain a leader in precision-engineered housing.
The Croydon apartments were manufactured on a production line at Tide Construction &Vision Modular Systems’ factory in Bedford, in much the same way as cars are created.
Complete with fully fitted kitchens and bathrooms, plumbing and wiring, the modules are fitted together as apartment blocks on-site in half the time it takes by traditional building methods.
Chairman John Fleming says finding even more innovative ways to build better, sustainable homes is crucial and adds: “Using a production line can offer far greater certainty around quality and cost. What we, as developers, need is far greater certainty from the planning system itself.”
Speed is a benefit of modular buildings but they are also twice as energy-efficient as the average UK home and digital technology cuts waste by 80 per cent.
Factory manufacture also reduces lorry deliveries, cutting carbon emissions by around 50 per cent compared to traditional construction methods.
The different skills needed for production lines could lead to more apprenticeships and ilke Homes has launched an academy for trainees in electrical engineering, manufacturing and carpentry. Croydon’s 101 George Street apartment blocks is a build-to rent development and expected to be fully finished by May (tideconstruction. co.uk) while ilke Homes (ilkehomes.co.uk) delivered Newcastle’s first ever modular zero carbon council homes this summer.
They have solar panels and were made in just six weeks for onsite assembly.
The German Passivhaus concept is also gaining ground in the UK, as other companies focus on homes with improved insulation and smart technology.
Passivhaus is a voluntary building performance standard based around reducing a home’s future energy demand.
Ann Taylor, Strutt & Parker’s head of new homes Kent, explains: “Passivhaus trends are becoming increasingly popular as house buyers have a growing understanding of what this means and the environmental benefits that such eco properties offer.”
Strutt & Parker is the agent for new development Scocles Court in Minster on Sea, Kent, that have super-insulation to reduce electricity bills by 70-90 per cent, triple glazed windows and doors, air purification and natural heat recovery systems, plus smart lighting and heating.
Four-bedroom houses start from £499,995 (01227 807905; struttandparker. com) and the development has landscaped communal areas and an outside gym.
Zero carbon smart homes are also being built in Cornwall, where Verto Homes have launched a collection of four-bedroom detached homes in Rock, near Padstow, that will generate energy through solar photovoltaic panels while using air and ground-source heat pumps. A heat recovery system will also redistribute warm air throughout the houses so nothing is wasted.
The homes at Lyonesse Lane start from £895,000 (01637 820420; lyonesselane.co.uk) and have smart technology including keyless entry, automated heating and lighting.
“Future-proofing homes is critical,” says Verto Homes co-founder,tom Carr.
“We have to ensure the technologies used are suitable for the entire lifetime of the structure.”