Covid shapes new opportunity in the form of Modular
When Adversity appears Opportunity knocks - that's life.
The leisure industry amongst others has taken a real hammering since the pandemic, for obvious reasons. However, lately the take up of Staycation has increased rapidly with holiday makers opting to travel local within 1-2 hours close to home.
Landowners are looking desperately to diversify creating much needed income
Modular construction has a huge role to play based on speed and highest quality products using different technologies from Elements to 3D Volumetric. From wooden to light gauge steel frame the Baltic States alone have been making modules for generations, built to handle extreme weather conditions these luxury pods provide a robust solution for an expanding requirement worldwide. Around the mid-1990's modern day OSM accelerated to a more lean streamlined solution using state of the art technology. Combined with highly experienced architects, engineers, project leaders, factories & local delivery partners to hoist in to place on site the cost for high quality 'leisure modules' from the Baltic States are around 700-1200 euros per square metre plus groundworks, delivery & installation for a high quality module.
(Photo below around 35m2 1000 euros per square metre) - of course sizes & quality of build differ widely depending on specification - luxury 'turnkey' Norwegian style homes will cost around 2,500 euros per square metre (photo at very bottom). The savings made on 'prelims' by using MMC provide 'points of difference' to the way we build.
The UK uptake in using Modern Methods of Construction for new builds is incredibly low at just 8% albeit very slowly increasing 2021 onwards
Our European engineers experience is worldwide including impressive turnkey residential and commercial projects in Scandinavia (perhaps considered 'The Kings of Modular') both leisure and large residential city developments utilising modern methods of construction. Considering the critical state of housing in the UK alone (300,000 homes needed per annum) there is a huge need for modern methods in what is a risk adverse industry unfortunately decades behind. We are failing to achieve such targets over a 10 year period moving forwards - why? It is all very doable only if people accept change.
Being based in the heart of 'the modular world' here in Lithuania gives you a distinct advantage with access to over 50 'proven' Off-Site Manufacturers Europe & Asia wide; Architects, Engineers, Project Leaders & Local Delivery Partners are a vital component to achieving success. We have a big presence in the UK also so happy to meet or Zoom call etc whichever your choice considering Covid times.
Keep safe & healthy in these distinct times of adversity!
The Leisure industry could easily lead the way in MMC
Excuses running thin not to embrace MMC
During the past few years the UK has heard every excuse in the book by some not to adopt Modern Methods of Construction. Partly a result of distinct lack of education, training and investment with only 8% of UK housing built using MMC.
Many large construction development firms conducting what they consider professional in-depth MMC reviews visiting factories in the UK (4-5 relatively small compared to overseas), perhaps 1-2 mega-plant OSM's in Poland, and even perhaps one or two in Latvia is no way sufficient to understand the worldwide current market and how to operate/trade within it. The word 'partner' is overused in many sectors, particularly construction where suppliers can often be looked down upon which is unacceptable. Building trust, we all appreciate surely takes more than one' red carpet' visit.
It's a sellers market, genuine partnerships are critical to ensure success
The past 3 years we, ACE Modular Construction, have visited 50 Off-Site Manufacturers, mostly overseas in Germany, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Asia etc multiple times, constantly impressed with highest levels of quality and ability to adapt to any countries specific regulations & standards. I personally decided to re-locate to the Baltic's full time on the basis being on the doorstep of the finest OSM and better quality of life. Is it built to British standards we are asked? We say NO, it is better!
There is still total some confusion with terminology using the word 'modular' alone which can consist of either a multitude of panel types (including concrete, wood & steel) or 3D volumetric (which most consider as modular) which is built up to around 95% complete modules in the factory or even bathroom & kitchen pods installed in to traditional build to help speed up the process - what we call a hybrid solution. (See my previous blogs that go in to significant detail)
We prefer to use the word MMC which incorporates OSM which can include Modular as a potential solution.
- The word 'Prefabrication' is reminiscent of Post WW2 cheap housing built to last 10 years introduced by Sir Winston Churchill 75 years ago. The polar opposite in 2020 including quality and valid warranties. In a recent blog posting I experienced "we have houses that are 600 years old in the UK with modular you cannot do that" - a ridiculous comment for a multitude of reasons. With a dire shortage of 3.4million homes in the UK we do not need to build houses that last 600 years. We work with a German OSM that has been in business for 115 successful years that build robust concrete modules which will last a very long time put it that way. Warranties are not an issue.
- Albeit a significant increase of late with more factories opening there are only 4-5 substantial factories in the UK, due to serious lack of investment previously by government in particular. Despite more serious government commitment more recently it's too late to be able to help solve the UK Housing Crisis alone, overseas OSM's are plenty, highly more experienced for the past few decades when the UK was still building using bricks. Significant uptake in Scandinavia, Germany and other countries has given the Baltic States alone an advantage to upscale, cash in and perfect their delivery. Whilst it is fantastic news the UK are increasing production they haven't experienced mass scale delivery in housing. It's not easy to get a factory fully operational and the huge risks attached are not for the faint hearted. I commend those that have created impressive factories in the UK and genuinely want Britain to succeed and adopt whole heartedly the merits of MMC, let alone job creation. We have failed miserably with modern day apprenticeships and now is time to change that. We have huge potential with a hardworking British nation.
- Contractors, architects and costs consultants not all aware of the current condition of the OSM market, what's available and in particular production capacity. The key issue is that most overseas OSM's are very nervous of the UK and can make more profit working in Norway & Sweden etc. We convinced some to come to the UK but it's a case of creating mutual trust and embracing UK delivery partners such as Modular Connexions.
- Modular construction is predominantly no cheaper that traditional construction, time saved with prelims is where the cost efficiencies can improve ROI by saving time. Wild statements from some OSM's claiming time savings of 50% are totally misleading, possibly products from leaving the factory to delivery on site counts as 50% but generally the time you can shave off is closer to around 25% in reality. That to an investor is very attractive let alone far better quality built in warm factory conditions not cold and wet, and also Health & Safety is a major issue.
- Lenders out of touch, albeit it appears pockets of self education have improved the past year slowly. Lack of published information hasn't helped on the basis of little use of MMC in the UK. Below's article gives us hope for mass improvement and some very interesting yet shocking statistics.
- More investment (in the right places) not just from government but investors creating more OSM facilities in the UK, consideration for expansion from overseas firms to part produce in Britain where possible. We questions decisions made by Homes England previously.
- Collaboration with overseas OSM's utilising highly experienced European trained UK delivery partners - working together utilising each others strengths.
- Consideration for many techniques using MMC, blended solutions from panels, light gauge steel frame to 3D Volumetric.
- Readily available factual information for all, including addressing lender concerns and promoting training, including visits to UK and overseas OSM's.
- Open minds, collaborative and honest approach to providing best solutions for housing.
- Adopt highest measures of Health & Safety ensuring best quality conditions for workers.
"The greater the level of detailed information available on MMC homes, the greater the confidence we can have in them as valuers, addressing any lender concerns. In time, as MMC becomes more accepted, MMC homes will be able to play their full part in boosting affordable housing delivery" reports Catherine Smith, Director at Savills
"There has been significant progress in recent weeks regarding the use of homes built using modern methods of construction (MMC) as loan security. Does this mean greater financial capacity is being unlocked in housing associations? Potentially. So, what is going on here and what valuation pointers are there for housing providers keen to increase the number of MMC homes they build?
She points out that "MMC homes to allow more affordable homes to be built more quickly and cost-effectively, the total number of MMC homes built each year remains relatively low.
"around 15,000 factory-built homes completed in the UK each year. This is around 7-8% of the roughly 200,000 homes that are built annual in the UK"
See our MMC Procurement Solution Executive Summary. For the full version inbox me.
It's not just political turmoil causing a stir
With very little production capacity in the UK collaboration with overseas OSM’s is helping towards solving our dreaded housing crisis. But only a turnkey solution under one entity taking risk & ensuring total protection is being demanded by clients including developers, investors & some contractors. It seems still far too often never the twain shall meet between highly experienced construction professionals & Off-Site Manufacturers - this has to change, our current antiquated construction industry needs to move to the 21st Century collaborating with overseas OSM's where practicably possible. Investors are most definitely losing patience wanting faster & higher quality build which is creating positive friction. And whilst the country isn’t really ready for Volumetric let's face it, Hybrid solutions are being utilised rapidly merging traditional build with various pods & elements partly produced offsite & some assembled on site where possible aiming to avoid standardisation. OSM's fast losing patience with UK tyre kickers/time-wasters who don't understand the process is no cheaper but the benefits are developments can be built far quicker so therefore better value and increased IRR, less problems on site, higher quality and not affected by adverse weather conditions.
It's not rocket science but the biggest problem we endure is the serious lack of knowledge in the main, the fact that the UK doesn't have appropriate experience still after much bravado in the press where factories are promised but still not yet in production and constrained by lack of scaleability and skill-set. Aside of 20 factories in the UK whose net profit ranges from a huge loss of 2400% to a positive of a mere 13% - collaboration makes so much sense, going it alone is a high risk strategy and cash flow is king not unless our government steps in to support those suffering factories who are likely to go out of business. Winding up orders being considered to many that are simply not paying the bills to suppliers we have experienced of late, debts going back 18 months or more. Of 35 factories we have visited across 6 countries we have 5 preferred key suppliers, all heavily backed financially, oodles of capacity, opportunity to add on more factory space, decades of sheer experience and willing to joint venture with the UK, some taking risk of participating financially which makes sense to developers.
Call me for a turnkey low risk solution, capable of delivery.
A Rumble in the Jungle: a UK Off-Site revolution
He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life." Muhammad Ali
At present, the use of MMC in housebuilding is low and the government will need to act quickly if it is to make an impact in meeting housebuilding targets. Supply chain capacity will need to be increased, and greater focus placed on ensuring the workforce has the required skillset for developing technologies. The government should work with Homes England and training centres, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, to develop targeted programmes targeted for use in the manufacture of MMC homes, says the committee.
Initial work to develop centres of excellence, bringing together businesses and academia to support innovation, is welcome but could be strengthened by coordinating with the Transforming Construction Programme and Construction Innovation Hub. These networks could form an ideal arena for testing and standardisation of MMC processes and components, as well as ensuring they comply with building regulations. The government will also need to improve data collection and sharing if it is to overcome reluctance to utilise MMC among lenders, insurers and home buyers. To gain the confidence of the industry as a whole, as well as consumers, the committee has said they must establish a database of MMC homes to demonstrate the long-term value and durability of MMC.
The committee backs the creation of an ‘MMC Scheme’, setting out a single set of standards for warranty providers, to provide greater certainty. Expansion of MMC faces many additional challenges including difficulties accessing land to build on, opaque and confusing building regulations and high upfront costs. The government should investigate the specific impact of the current regulatory systems and access to funding on MMC, and consider options for measures designed to overcome existing barriers.
See below our partners project in Slough, 9 apartments over 3 storeys, consisting of 21 modules, GLA 750m2
Chair of the housing, communities and local government committee, Clive Betts, said: “If the government is to have any chance of meeting its target of 300,000 new homes a year it cannot simply rely on traditional methods of construction. They must make a serious effort to support the use of new and emerging technologies that have the potential to have a transformative impact on the speed, cost and quality of home building. This is not simply about shifting production away from the building site and into factories. It is about seizing opportunities that modern technologies allow, whether it be precision manufacturing, use of new materials or digital working. First and foremost they must create the conditions to improve investor and consumer confidence. Reluctance is understandable. The perception is that the building innovations of the sixties created homes that failed to survive half a century, while rows of Victorian terraces are still standing. Proving quality and longevity will be key. That is why we have called on the government to collect and publish the data that prove new building methods work, and also show if they have failed. The government will also need to support the industry to grow the capacity needed for MMC to play a greater role in national housebuilding. They will need to ensure that the right training schemes and apprenticeships are in place so that we have the skilled workforce that can utilise MMC techniques. They must also work with the industry to support the development of robust supply chains and support innovative businesses develop. The housing system is in urgent need of a major boost and if the government is to have any chance of meeting its ambitious target it must grasp every opportunity new technologies allow. But they must act fast and act now.”
Lesson's Learnt In Off-Site Construction
With far more ‘genuine’ welcomed interest in Off-Site Manufacturing the past 6 months, our personal experience is:-
- A leaning towards perhaps even a 'sellers market' where collaborative working & mutual respect is now key - little options for supply chain (inc facade firms booked for a long time ahead) in particular for the construction of towers
- It is a labyrinth, an elaborate maize for many potential clients not knowing either what technology is currently available, who to go to with no sufficient relations place, in particular little knowledge of production capacity slots in the market
- Considerable hype with news stories promoting new UK factories that are yet to be even built let alone producing desperately needed homes. Plus a stark difference even between producing prototypes versus full production roll-out hopefully using smart technology
- Both UK & overseas factories guilty of perhaps selling themselves a little too hard but not capable of fulfilling production slots leaving clients disappointed after ‘wetting’ many appetites
- OSM similar to traditional build is riddled with risk, most factories do not offer a turnkey solution as yet, confident/ignorant perhaps customers don’t require it - on the basis of clients wishing to defer risk as much as possible some OSM’s are in for a shock these coming months. A local trusted experienced delivery partner is critical
- Risk must be shared amongst the OSM & a local delivery partner particularly with 3D Volumetric & Elements, Bathroom Pods don’t seem to be such an issue where customers accept ‘plug and play’ with simple delivery to site
- Customer service levels naturally differing world wide (from bad to average, few exceptional) & tolerance levels lowering significantly towards ‘tyre kickers’ testing the market
- Some lack of knowledge by clients generally for what is achievable in OSM design & structurally wise coupled with obvious notably resistance to change, based on little experience, weak relations or suitable proven supply chain
- Senior management/investors becoming insistent on speeding up build times, now having and wishing to consider modern methods including OSM
- A disjointed UK construction market desperate for change in the hope to rise to the challenge of building 4 million homes, quicker, better quality, more efficiently, greener and cost effectively working to BOPAS accredition where necessary
Guts, Vision and Sheer Momentum for 2019
“The UK construction industry is one of the last to embrace modernisation, while we are all using smartphones, construction is still pretty much the same as it was during Roman times.” Mark Farmer, Cast Consultancy
Momentum will clearly continue to grow in 2019 in Off-Site Manufacturing (OSM). With most UK housebuilders delivering at least one development with an element of modular construction. As the annual number of new modular homes is only standing at 15,000 it is difficult to see how we will reach the government’s target of 100,000 by 2020 without significant overseas support chasing the most suitable OSM's.
Considering a shortfall of 4m homes it is time now surely accelerate not only our build methods technically but to encourage more property development debt providers to enter the market. As far as mortgages, over 25 High Street lenders are participating, coupled with Housing Associations & Local Authorities under increasing pressure to house people.
Modular is not suitable for all development projects but the use of state of the art Hybrid systems combined even with traditional build are proving to be more popular
Challenges to overcome for overseas OSM's;
- Clients fear based on a bad experience or perhaps more like pre-conceived ideas (going back to War Torn Britain in the 1950's) with existing strong relations in place with suitable supply chain which I consider the real problem here. Taking in to consideration rapid growth the UK's OSM's can possibly provide no more than 4% of the UK's housing requirement. It is a 'cottage industry' albeit 4 relatively large (in UK terms) reputable volumetric firms and one large bathroom pod facility with capability for 20,000 units per year. So despite concerns from very few UK clients there is evidently huge potential for overseas OSM's to prove themselves with expansion on the basis of sheer production capacity & absolutely decades of experience
- OSM's lack of investment - albeit high successful in their own territory they are not always in a position to fund cashflow to support projects over a certain financial level. With a weak 'balance sheet' in place, lack of experience locally without UK delivery partners it will be challenging. As the old saying goes "Nobody got fired for hiring IBM" so clients take the easy and somewhat sensible option to stick to far more financially robust proven OSM providers or revert back to traditional build
- Upper hand being taken either by the client or the OSM, either which one considering themselves to be more important than the other, and not collaborating as necessary creating strong long-lasting partnerships - it's all about collaboration!
- Development funding issues due the nature of being 'Off-Site' until delivered on site Debt lenders slow coming to the table.
Swan Housing invested £100m regenerating Basildon’s former 1960s Craylands Estate, which the provider is delivering in partnership with Basildon Borough Council and the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA). They say their factory will be capable of producing around 300 homes per annum using cross laminated timber (CLT) when at full capacity. Swan has a development pipeline of 3,500 homes.
I've produced a series of blogs on OSM on LinkedIn, see one of my last of 2018
The Earth Is Round, Pigs Don’t Smell……And Why The Word’ Prefab’ Is Still A Barrier To Off-Site Construction - 31st July 2018 Blog
We didn’t always know that the earth is round, and pigs didn’t smell. But in the UK, we do know the word ‘Prefab’ has brought instant negativity for decades, reminiscent of the deliverance plan to address the UK’s post-Second World War housing shortage, some made of wood, some made of pre-cast reinforced concrete and poorly built, resembling perhaps your Grandfathers old shed, to last just 10 years in operation. Yes, just 10 years, they were never built to last folks albeit we have some of the greatest engineers that ever existed.
Ladies and Gents, please let me speed up to the 21st Century.
Could I even be bold enough to suggest we drop the description as Prefab in the United Kingdom, and replace with OFF-SITE instead? Where often these modern methods are guaranteed for circa 60 years and built to exceptional high standards. The Baltics, Scandinavia, Japan and the USA have all mastered in differing ways what seems some Brit’s are still struggling to comprehend is a viable option to build on 'mass scale'. The positives are obvious from quality, speed of build, to prevention of trades tripping up over each other on site and allows consistency in time and cost parameters established at the outset therefore greater control and less maintenance. Investors desire the fact that completion of the project is up to 50% quicker and more control over quality, after all its a factory-controlled environment, the traditionalist ‘Red Brick Brigade’ don’t wish to even think about all the modern methods available throughout the world which clearly work. At our last event, with our good 'innovation led' friends Mace Group, we conquered a few myths on Modular Construction joined by our forward thinking British based property developers, contractors, project managers, investors and architects guests. Our next event will focus on which mortgage companies are happy with modern-day Off-Site Construction and indeed the issue over attaining investors to invest in the first place to provide development finance (Equity&Debt). See here a project our UK Delivery Partner created that attracted 6 separate well known mortgage companies for 9 apartments. If the cost of money funding the project is good, combined with investors taking modular seriously, and lenders accepting homes to be mortgageable then we have a winner.
There are many solutions for faster quality build, all of which need to be considered very carefully including Volumetric and Panel Modular.
Residential and Office Tower Blocks in Modular are being built here in the UK up to 29 storeys, and growing, using different Off-Site methods available. One example by the developer Pocket Living click here is a truly ground-breaking project for the UK. Some projects may not suit modular if designed for traditional build already but where there is a will there is a way combined with starting the process far earlier with Modular in mind. We are currently tendering for thousands of Bathroom Pods, the remainder of each project is using other Off-Site Solutions and some traditional build even but purchasing pods to add value to the process. With one less big thing to worry about, the prevention of various trades tripping up over each other on a very busy complex construction site. For full Volumetric modular, where facade solutions go up more or less the same time as the modules this will save months alone when building, all suppliers including MEP, Groundworks etc suitably organised naturally.
And whilst a small handful of UK companies including an Insurance Company promising to "revolutionise housing" by investing in factory-built homes the exact completion time for the majority of these factories are yet to be revealed despite 'bravado' in the construction news and at conferences, still not proven nor able to deliver huge numbers of homes - they are well behind schedule that's for sure and no homes completed as yet the UK is well behind. Modular will not solve the UK housing crisis alone, it needs much more serious investment, help from outside of our quaint well established Island and significant training to correct our dire skills shortage. Most homes are built by the big house builders who have their own preferred way of working with proven sub-contractors for many years which is understandable in a sense but where is the innovation? The solution is not only huge investment in factories and production lines, it's a change of British mindset totally which requires confidence that future demand will be at least steady, which in the booming-and-busting British housing market is hard to find. Outsourcing outside the UK is evidently a faster robust solution where best quality proven Off-Site has been available for decades. We all welcome credible UK Modular Factories, there is plenty of room and we have already met 2 that are part of our key strategy moving forwards, we just wish there were a lot more significant serious players in the market that have facilities in full production now.
Our rough maths equates it would need 30+ mega factories to hit the governments ridiculous unachievable targets to build 1 million new homes by 2020 to help towards solving our Housing Crisis.
When I quote ‘mega’ I mean not British size factories as they are currently, they are dwarfed by what is available in the Baltics alone, we know at least 10 firms that can produce 80,000 square meters of homes each per annum. What is viable is working with our UK Delivery Partners to work seamlessly providing mass housing solutions working in collaboration, utilising our great British workforce, complimented with a foreign product which adapts to UK construction standards. The majority of enquiries we are currently getting the past 2 months are in India, Uganda, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Sweden, reliant on local partners, building absolute thousands of houses between them utilising our Off-Site Supply Chain predominantly in lightweight steel frame, and including an integrated structural system that is seismic resistant, thermally and acoustically insulated, and is based on a set of structural panels. Each element is made of a 3D structure in high resistance steel, defined by two flat meshes robustly interconnected by multiple perpendicular bars. The insulation plate is in the space between the steel meshes and has the specifications that are suitable for the project needs. This system is put together on site by means of the application of two layers of micro concrete of a pre-determined thickness, either by pneumatic spraying or by pouring it into the formwork.
We encourage our worldwide supply chain to collaborate to provide solutions inc; Shower Enclosures & Trays, Customised Ergonomic Furniture, Residential and Industrial Garage Doors, even ICT Solutions and Smart Water Meters.
We commend, amongst others, our Nordic cousins for expanding our thinking on ways of providing alternative build methods, that so we now have a dedicated section on our website #modular #off-site construction #scandinavia #houses #dwellings #efficiency #investment http://www.lithuaniagb.com/off-site-construction/scandinavian-client-section-off-site-construction/
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Sourcing The Best Modular Construction – 12th March 2018 Blog
Completing 4 months intensive (travelling) research in Modular Construction the past year throughout the Baltic Region has been an eye opener, to say the least. These humongous factories are truly mind blowing with up to 6 lines of production facility 24/7 operation, acres of factory space and the fire power to expand in a very quick period of time catering for the UK Housing Crisis.
A comment from one of our Baltic partners recently "If we need to build more homes for our customers we simply build another factory next door, we have plenty of room and will create one in a matter of months - investment is not an issue when we have more significant orders in the pipeline"
Now that wouldn't happen in the UK as much as I hate to say it, land being one of the key issues. We are proud of my country but we had to wake up and smell the coffee to fulfil our British clients growing construction needs.
The UK Government's commitment to invest a massive £44 Billion in to helping to solve the Housing Crisis over the next 5 years is welcoming news - nobody should be homeless in this day and age. Despite tremendous bravado from the UK Construction Industry Modular Construction still remains a 'Cottage Industry' due to lack of sheer investment, a dire skills shortage and therefore little experience in modern modular construction. We calculate, with various tip-off's from the UK's Modular professionals, there are 3-4 large serious operational factories at most in the UK with very limited capacity and therefore selective who they can work with, the remainder are a mix of warehouses with equipment thrown in for good measure, numerous small-medium size factories are being set up with a vision to monetise providing housing to our great country. When I say 'large' I mean a factory that has capacity to build at 2,000 plus homes a year. We are proud British citizens, we want to see the UK improve its construction capability and employment levels by far, and also see the Government deliver on its quest to solve the shortage of skills. However, the reality is I am afraid are many construction professionals are anti anything that is non-British and goes against the grain of laying bricks and therefore slowing down the UK Governments plans to build 1,000,000 (one million) homes by 2020 - gulp! The lack of experience in some instances with Modular currently is shocking and reminds me personally dare I say similar to how we under estimated the Germans in the 2nd World War with our 'island mentality' with blatant discrimination and arrogance. Let's hope this changes to reach those targets to house our citizens affordably. Whilst the Government are boasting about recent housing targets (2016/17) only 19% are affordable. The target was raised to 250,000 homes built per year but experts say it should be more like 300,000. My belief is it is best to embrace outside reliable quality solutions where necessary to hit those targets including more affordable housing, at the same time creating business opportunities to what we phrase as our UK Delivery Partners providing critical employment and investment here with a turn-key offering. The modules are built Off-site in the Baltic's to high standards with less waste, under controlled quality conditions, shipped to the UK and the site is prepared and completed by experienced British companies who gain from this business. Why fight it? the UK categorically cannot currently compete with Baltic Firepower for a variety of reasons, mostly skills shortage (industry perhaps? and the Governments fault), lack of proper investment and experience currently and with our research no one believes anything will change soon apart from small to medium size multiple factories setting up here there and everywhere making a very small dent indeed against a gigantic target for a small country. If one wants to help solve the housing crisis we all must understand that the UK is frankly currently ill equipped unfortunately, factories the size of mega car plants fully professionally automated are needed not warehouses under the pretence of sophisticated state of the art factories with little space to expand under one roof - avoiding a multiple dislocated and dis-organised organisation and lack of serious investment both factory and training workers.
Modular, be it Volumetric or Panel, doesn't suit every project, it's down to getting a solution in place well before planning begins, it has to fit and be designed to modular from day one otherwise it will be costly. Modular is not cheap but it is a cost effective investment. If a cheap solution is required we suggest forego the Baltic's and opt for China.
If modular won't work we inform our clients from day one and advise them to consider another route immediately be it timber frame/conventional brick/block or concrete build which we also provide - we are bias towards modular for our own personal beliefs in attempting to help solve the crisis and the huge targets set but not foolish enough to recommend if it is truly wrong. We work with UK experts from Architects, Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers, Cost Management Consultants - we like to feed them as much as possible to provide a turn-key solution in housing, hotels, commercial offices, schools etc leaning on our Lithuanian Engineers for support where needed. Our Baltic partners also supply stand alone Bathroom Pods for hotels and apartments etc. We are on the constant look out for UK Delivery Partners feeding each other work.
* The Baltic's are dwarfing the UK Modular Factories and whilst labour can also be an issue good relations with neighbouring countries including Ukraine and Russia provide a solution, language is not a barrier being former CIS, they can scale accordingly. In the main the factory workforce also speak Russian so can communicate. Their work ethic is unquestionably strong, employing both women and men.
* Investment in to Baltic Factories is huge (from Norway and internally), ongoing and supported by decades of experience building to very high standards indeed in providing housing, hotels, schools and offices to Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, France and more recently the UK - they know how to build...and ship. They have been doing this for generations building to British Standards and Mortgages are achievable.
* Modular Construction is not more expensive than traditional build, the build time is up to 50% quicker therefore the 'cash burn rate' is attractive to investors, developers and construction firms. 'Bums in beds' at a far quicker efficient rate saves money therefore also helping to solve the dreaded Housing Crisis. We are truly sorry to hear of the negative experiences here in the UK and are genuinely surprised that a few construction professionals consider Modular a more expensive solution. It is simply NOT true, if planned and purchased correctly taking in to consideration the speed of build completion overall.
We land last week, 'fresh off the former Eastern bloc' from a very cold Lithuania and Estonia this time, to publish a blog here on LinkedIn and receive 14,000 views in just 3 days, varying demonstration of UK modular experiences which we value, mostly good some bad. Those that are 'bad' very much isolated experiences are comments claiming modular is more expensive? Firstly it's down to supplier relations in achieving best value and secondly over a period time the benefits are considerable. Get your (and your wonderful investors) investment back a lot quicker improving ROI, solve the problem of housing and to highest standards at the same time. It's not been easy to convince the Baltic's to take us seriously at the true potential in Brexit Britain, trust is an issue based on too many visitors before us time wasting, the countries choice to exit Europe Union and stability, the ability to work closely together and delivery. The effort going in to building partnerships is extensive, factories often opting to choose who they wish to work with and not the other way round. Time-wasting cost obsessed customers are many (we avoid them like the plague), quality development schemes few and far between so it's all about scalability, sustainability, genuine and provable funding lines. Our simple advice is to of course to be humble with your approach to your supplier base, no big sticks needed, agree clear methods of working from day one, KPI's and mutual respect and lots of face to face meetings.....or perhaps just work with us with our Baltic & British partners, gain from our experience, save yourself years of travel, expense and sheer hassle at no extra cost with a turn-key solution.
Our passion is working with Local Authorities and Housing Associations providing much needed housing, combined with sourcing private equity investment as well as luxury build in all shapes and sizes for private and developer clients. Always open for serious discussion remaining flexible using a variety of build solutions.
Lithuania GB To Represent Leading Edge Smart Metering Technology Co...Official Launch - 30th January 2018
We are delighted to announce we are now representing Axioma LEZ in the UK, a leading smart metering company from the Baltic's producing Ultrasonic Water Meters designed for cold and hot water consumption with a static water measurement method.
High quality cost effective products;
- Ultrasonic water measuring that will identify and immediately react to the tiniest of changes in the system therefore limiting leakage
- Cost reduction of 10%-20%
- New generation patented design
- Organised billing process reducing servicing costs
- User friendly and easy to adapt IoT and other data receiving technology
Exceptionally advanced monitoring devices for different mediums and based on various operation methods:
- ultrasonic heating and cooling energy meters
- ultrasonic heat and water meters
- ultrasonic and electromagnetic flow sensors
- electronic hot and cold water meters, and wastewater meters
The devices can be configured and adapted according to the client's needs and connected to their energy management systems or to other systems. They also provide head meter inspection and maintenance services. The meters Axioma LEZ create and manufacture, are designed for monitoring industrial, commercial and residential buildings.
We, Lithuania GB, are looking for opportunities with the possibility to show our experience in smart metering, IoT and billing markets, and hopefully we can help you to implement a trial, indeed 'live' commercial projects.
"The ultrasonic water measuring method is one of the most quickly developing methods in numerous sectors because it can identify and immediately react to the tiniest changes in any system. Therefore, as ultrasonic system developers, we consistently invest in scientific research in this field and have already created products and solutions for customers. In this way, we ensure that the meters we produce are advanced, precise and very accurate."
To speak with us in more detail and to meet Axioma please contact:
Adrian Smith, Operations Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rule Britannia! Top Class Eastern Euro Off-Site Construction Collaborating with the Brits - 23rd January 2018
Securing highest quality Off-Site Construction supply chain outside the UK was our mission. With the UK's construction industry under significant pressure, due to a dire skills shortage, we wanted to create a solution, with the support of our 20 partners, which would benefit homeowners of all levels and requirements, to support the UK Construction Industry and our partners in the Baltic's. The UK Housing Crisis and my somewhat diluted semi-Socialist ideals aside, the solutions that these partners deliver are considered streets ahead in what is precision engineering created under controlled conditions. Beautiful homes being created in both Panel and Volumetric Modular Construction up to half the speed, investors enjoying the speed of ROI in particular.
Our research and of course 'top quality gossip' with experts in the UK Industry demonstrates around 3-4 core Off-Site UK Factories producing a variety of product including Steel Frame & CLT, the remainder are apparently, small, very new, not actually in production or proven as yet, not managing over & above their own pipeline, but none the less competition planning to enter the market place which is a good thing for the UK - but without skilled workers how does that work exactly? A British factory asked me recently if I could ship over Lithuanian and Ukrainian workers for them?? Already a large proportion of construction workers in the UK are from Eastern Europe already as we all know (at Berkeley Homes about half of the contractors are from Eastern Europe Mr. P reports) and on most large sites it's not unusual to find around 10 spoken languages, with dual-language signs. Severe adjustment needed with a distinct lack of training albeit the Government doing their best to attend to assist our British workforce.
According to the Guardian Newspaper "The most frequent nationalities of people resident in the UK and working in construction in 2014 – these people have arrived in the UK in the past 10 years, from figures by the Construction Industry Training Board:
South Africa: 1,316
Given the choice to lay bricks or create scaffolding in our climate is apparently not so appealing to UK youngsters, compared to being office bound, and who can blame them! My short period of what I call real work lasted 4 years in 'hard landscaping' blessed therefore with a 'healthy mattress bank balance', mighty fit, tan and a white van to go with it. I decided that there were easier ways to earn $ and told by my self-made father at the time if I carried on working like that I would kill myself, slight exaggeration but the words were quoted. A big goodbye to the 6-pack, hello Corporate World and expanding waist line.
PANEL HOUSING (& ASSOCIATED CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS)
I've created plenty of blogs the past few months sharing my passion for 'Volumetric Modular' which can be ideal for a number of purposes including; mainstream residential, commercial, schools, student, PRS etc. - anything that is standardised but more flexible than some think. This particular blog is focused towards 'panel construction' which is even more flexible and welcomed by Architects who lust being 'creative' for their clients pushing the boundaries to create beautiful abodes and luxurious including high-end timber construction. Clearly evident that some Brits in the Industry need to brush up a little on what is actually available in the Euro market place, the UK is still behind with knowledge in comparison despite efforts to compete expanding out of a 'Cottage Industry' experts tell me. The Soviet era created elements of misery but at the same time a thoroughly robust industry with absolutely huge production facilities, many still in operation today (they are solid concrete from top to bottom and extremely ugly yet effective) and extended more recently to create super new state of the art facilities thousands of square metres, up to 6 plus lines of production. The cost of workers obviously a lot lower and including shipping still remain competitive with super quality build and dedication to enter the UK.
Panel homes as the name dictates are built using panels transported to the site. Typically, these homes require more finishing work than volumetric modular homes (95% done off-site), as the interior finishing work, such as painting, installing cabinetry and stairs, kitchens and bathrooms and installing flooring, must be completed on-site. Factory build-time is still similar to that of modular homes, but on-site build time is longer. It takes about a week to construct the panels onsite, then it will take further weeks to complete the interior work, depending on the extent of the work and the schedules of the sub-contractors which needs to be carefully thought out. The whole process is more time intensive and detailed;
- Panels still allow building a house quickly, but electricity, plumbing, ventilation works, bathrooms and kitchens are not done in the factory. These works are transferred to the building site and it requires longer working time on site
- Houses made from panels usually have: flexibility to dimensions, cheaper transportation, lower factory unit price and you can achieve exactly what you want
- Panel construction allows the building to incorporate open spaces and high ceilings
Question: What does Aston Martin and Off-Site Construction have in common? - January 8th 2018
From Panels to Volumetric Modular Units the benefits of Off-Site Construction are plenty. The process in which a building is constructed off-site, under carefully controlled plant conditions very similar to car production, using the same materials each time and designing to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities – but in up to half the time. My interest for Off-Site Construction is partly because I adore the creation of cosmetically pleasing objects (coming from a print background) matched equally with my passion to contribute in solving the UK (and further afield) Housing Crisis & creating Asset Based Investment opportunities for investors. So, in the mix in this instance we have Private Equity, reliable Off-Site Partners & UK Delivery Partners and the ability to negotiate with Local Authorities to provide housing solutions utilising Airspace and Brownfield Sites.
Volumetric modular units are large building elements that can be linked together to form complete buildings without the need for additional superstructure. The internal fit-out, finishes and building services are pre-installed & commissioned in the modules prior to leaving the actual factory ensuring that quality control is very high and defects kept to a minimum. The external façade, claddings & roof treatments are usually installed onsite. Volumetric units plant rooms or flexible living and working spaces. Applications include offices, public buildings, hotels, sport stadiums, airports, hospitals, universities, schools/kindergartens. There are Volumetric structures in the UK up to 29 storey-tower (the largest in Europe using 679 modules) in London. In addition Airspace opportunities across the country are huge with the opportunity to generate potential additional ground rent, increased asset values and improvements and a solution to the UK's housing crisis.
Aside of playing a small part to contribute to society I hope, Modular construction should not be considered temporary to applications listed above. Believe it or not Super Prime properties are being created on another level, pretty much anything is achievable luxury wise, it's all down to the specification and budget!
- Structurally generally stronger on the basis that each module is engineered to withstand the stress of transportation and delivery to foundations
- Better construction quality management in a factory or warehouse preventing damage and general deterioration from outside elements therefore construction can be completed 30%-50% quicker with an added benefit to investors, businesses or homeowners
- Stringent Quality Assurance programs including independent testing and inspection procedures
- Removal of circa 80% of building construction activity, far less disruption to the environment in vehicle traffic and less noise
- Architects embrace modular construction on the basis of flexibility, creativity, environmentally friendlier and quality
- Promotes sustainability and less waste
Off-Site Construction doesn't necessarily always work out much cheaper than conventional building methods and not always the best solution for all, it depends on several factors including local authorities, planning, legislation and geography. There are so many different Modular solutions on the market available from different countries and everyone naturally has their own opinion on what works best for them. From a commercial point of view my personal preference for development would be Modules, 95% built Off-Site, but for my own home I prefer perhaps a little more flexibility in the design. There is no reason why you can't merge the various options of Off-Site Construction, panels and modules together, it's done regularly.
We provide a Turn-Key Solution working seamlessly with both Baltic and British that are best in their field, highly motivated, tenured who focus on delivering results. Since the Off-Site launch event of introducing our Lithuanian Partners back in September at the Embassy of Lithuania here in London we have experienced a huge uptake of enquiries across the UK, so much so we have expanded outside Lithuania under one Cluster to incorporate Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - 20+ factories with different levels of capacity able to handle large volume, standardised and non-standardised modular, build quality sublime. Our future plans including providing Off-Site Housing Solutions Worldwide; incorporating Solar, Bio-Mass and Water Treatment off-the-grid systems to help people function without the support of remote infrastructure.
A very Happy New Year to you! - January 3rd 2018
I get asked a lot why Lithuania? I suppose it’s difficult for those that haven’t been to imagine the value this country brings. Lithuania is small, currently 2.8m reside, released from the clenches of the Soviets in 1991 after 50 years. Estonia and Latvia were also under Military Occupation under the auspices of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 14 June 1940 un-recognised by most Western powers. The history of this fascinating country dates back to settlements founded many thousand years ago, with the first written record of the name goes back to 1009 AD. Lithuanians, one of the Baltic peoples later conquered neighbouring lands and established the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th Century, a successful ‘warrior state’ remaining independent. It became the largest state in Europe in the 15th Century. A Dynastic Union with Poland was created in 1385 via the Union of Krewo leading to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569) until 1795 when the Partitions of Poland erased both Lithuanian and Poland from the political map. Lithuanians liver under the rule of the Russian Empire until the 20thCentury. Come 1918 Lithuania was re-established as a democratic state and remained independent until the outset of WW2. History lesson over! I hear huge relief!!
Vilnius is the Capital which is a buzzing small friendly City full of life, beautiful architecture dating back hundreds of years. Modern and old combined the place has a certain ambience which is unique coupled with wonderful coffee shops, restaurants that have far better Wi-Fi than London funny enough. Which leads us on to why I scripted this blog.
Lithuania’s ICT sector is evolving at a rapid rate with an increasing amount of companies setting up and expanding with the help of the fastest and most affordable internet connections in Europe. Lithuania rank 16th in the world for ICT skills and attracts many huge organisations including AIG, Nasdaq and Google. The country hosts 13 of the 20 largest IT companies in the Baltics. Before Christmas I attended a meeting to meet a fabulous company who produce Interactive visualizations and virtual reality experiences for real estate and architecture wishing to tap in to my Real Estate connections. Their offices are based at a Tech Centre backed by the Government, a truly impressive set up at affordable prices for many tech firms http://vilniustechpark.com
We decided to launch our first ICT evening Event 29th March 2018 at the Embassy of Lithuania in London, those so far participating include Sekasoft, Indeform and Ashburn International all rearing to do significant business in the UK and further afield. Our successes to date commenced with our entry in to promoting Modular Construction suppliers to UK Developers, Construction and Architectural firms, having generated Millions of Euros of business in a very short period of time. Our background in Media lends itself well to ICT we feel so expansion has taken place at a rapid rate to create a high-profile presentation and drinks event. The purpose of the event is to introduce to our extensive database of friends we have created during the past 20 years to our Lithuanian Partners – they have so much to offer, humble by birth, highly educated and no surprises 80% of the population speak English. These guys are ultra-smart, so hungry for business and looking very much long-term in business, that’s WHY we chose to work with this fine Country, Lithuania. So, take a trip when you can, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Have a fantastic year and thank you for taking the time to read this missive…….
Warmest wishes Richard
UK HOUSING CRISIS December 2017
The UK Government recent announcement back in November incorporates radical changes needed to supply much needed housing and numbers are truly frightening. In London alone Mayor Sadiq Kahn has set targets to create 66,000 homes per annum increasing from 29,000. The ridiculously high cost of living in our capital is putting home ownership out of the question for young people unable to get a foot on the property ladder. This doesn’t bode well and we, Lithuania GB and UK Delivery Partners (including an Ex-Minister) are determined to help contribute towards solving this problem by providing Off-Site Housing Solutions.
Off-Site Housing consists of: Modular and Panel/Elements Construction can reduce the time up to half in construction delivery, the UK needs to embrace modern methods as a necessity not an option. A prediction is within 5 years tradespeople will disappear dramatically on the basis that young people are not wishing to become bricklayers and associated building trades. This is a serious problem that will not go away.
“Between 1997 and 2016, London’s population increased by a quarter – an extra 1.7 million people – but only 370,000 homes were added to the stock. One result has been a rise in the number of families sharing with other families, which now affects 470,000 households. The figures are contained in a stark assessment of housing need that will form the basis of the London Plan, a five-year planning strategy due to be published next month. Khan said: “Successive prime ministers have failed to invest anywhere near”
October article in the Guardian Newspaper highlight Mr. Khan’s quest