The Barratt Z House is testing different integrated heating and power solutions. It includes infrared panel heaters in the ceiling, an air source heat pump and vehicle-to-grid electric vehicle charging to increase the storage capacity beyond the integrated batteries. With photovoltaics on the roof and energy efficiency through the house is energy positive and will be used to see which technologies offer comfort at the lowest overall cost.
AIMCH aims to produce a single seamless digital system (an Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP system) that will allow businesses to process offsite manufacturing from concept design to completion. This will demonstrate an increase in efficiency, quality and a reduction in lead-time, downtime and processing time.
There are an estimated 120 companies engaged in AIMCH offering a powerful opportunity to show the benefits of collaboration to industry stakeholders, so the whole sector comes with them. This is being profiled on the AIMCH website and on Twitter.
If AIMCH learnings can be extended across all housebuilding, over 70,000 more homes could be built in the UK each year with the same skilled workforce.
As part of the project, Barratt Developments has built a zero-carbon home of the future at Salford University. It includes numerous technologies to reduce embodied and lifetime emissions, while providing a home that will be loved by occupants. Based on an existing Barratt home design this showcase building, built using modern methods (no bricklayers), will be used to prepare supply chains to deliver lower embodied components and meet net zero carbon standards. The Z House has cut in-use emissions by 100% and has technology enabling lifestyle-related emissions to be cut such as a fridge that reduces food waste and water saving devices. The project was used to drive innovation in Barratt’s supply chain and looked at embodied emission aspects such as using thinner bricks and tiles.
Stewart Milne is spinning out the Timber Solutions part of the business, which delivers panel components to multiple housebuilder customers and is based on AIMCH outputs. They have invested £40m in new capacity and capability including £8.2m to upgrade the existing factory in Whitney while £6m is being used to double capacity (a further 20,000 homes over 5 years) by building another factory in Falkirk using the design template developed in the project. Timber Solutions has a £300m order book and the sale will enable expansion overseas.
Early indications suggest house builders could build 30% more homes with the same skilled workforce mainly through automation of processes, better scheduling on site and removing the need for scaffolding. Forsters is targeting a 50% improvement in productivity for its skilled roofers through adoption of automation for routine processes.
One output of the project is an open-source pattern book for affordable housing that home developers can use to easily apply modern methods to their developments. It provides an off-the-shelf timber frame solution.
In comparing costs across different sites in different regions, it has been confirmed that every region currently has a significantly different cost benchmark due to variations in the cost of labour, materials and subcontractors. These benchmarks will be developed to incorporate actual onsite costs and provide a true benchmark for analysis between the current standard house construction and modern methods of construction.
Homes constructed with factory-made frames and roofs tiled on the ground remove the need for scaffolding and in doing so improve the safety of the workforce. Better scheduling and planning also prevent accidents and defects. The project is working with the HSE to capture improved risks onsite, including reduced working at height; less manual handling; and reduced silica dust.
The project has calculated a 52% faster build than brick-and-block (14 vs 29 weeks), and even this seems conservative compared with Stewart Milne targets of 6-8 week builds.
The consortium deliver 35,000 homes a year between them. Impacts would be scaled up rapidly once demonstrated. AIMCH partners are already seeing business opportunities where this work can be exploited within their businesses. In the case of Stewart Milne Homes, the recommendations have been utilised in the creation on a new housing range for deployment within the business in the next 12-36 months. The project applied outputs on £1bn of new builds in 2021, with this rising to £2.5bn by 2025.