Enabling Housing Innovation for Inclusive Growth

A value-led approach to modular social housing.

Last updated: 12th October 2021

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Innovation Lead: Sherrie Rad
Project number: 106167
UKRI funding: £2,038,191

Website:
ytko.com/


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Summary

Faced with a rising demand for housing and motivated by its commitment for everybody to have access to affordable and sustainable housing, Bristol City Council is leading the way in applying Modern Methods of Construction to create more quality homes, quicker and in a more cost effective way. The council is working with YTKO and BRE to capture evidence around using MMC for social housing and to give other councils a framework to follow. The project has tested offsite and modular building techniques on nine demonstrator projects across the South of England, creating nine new local supply chains in the process. A data toolkit with learnings from the project will help local authorities understand the rapidly-evolving MMC market, and offer a procurement pathway to address their own housing challenges and lead to social housing contracts awarded on value, not just low cost.

Innovation type: Digital, Kit of parts, Manufacturing, Offsite, Process, Procurement, Skills
Organisation type: Government client, Housebuilder, Innovative SME, Manufacturer, Social housing provider, Supply chain

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Project pioneers

Bristol City Council (BCC) has been leading in the application of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) for house builds. This project aims to improve the speed, cost and social value of nearly £78m worth of housing being deployed in the city using MMC over the next 3 years - of the 420 homes planned over 50% will be affordable housing. The council has been working with YTKO, a Bristol-based consulting and management company that draws on innovative partnerships to solve unmet market needs. It has been delivering construction projects in Bristol and the South West for many years. BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials conducts research and offers consultancy around sustainable construction materials and technologies. Together all three partners share the belief that MMC is critical to solving the demand for affordable housing and that new homes can be built with less impact on the environment.

The problem

Demand for social housing is growing. Bristol City Council (BCC) has committed to build 2,000 homes annually, with around 800 of those being affordable housing. BCC plans to draw on Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to reach that goal, but wanted comparative data on in-use performance of factory-made homes and their adaptability, resilience and compliance with regulations, before adopting this new manufacturing approach at scale and at pace. Until then, the construction industry continues to draw on traditional building methods. These can't guarantee the same levels of quality, environmental performance and value that future houses need to have - such as increased energy performance, reduction in repair and maintenance and an improved environment for future tenants. Stronger evidence around the performance of MMC will help break this traditional, wasteful system that works for no-one.

Vision

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and offsite production delivers more quality homes, more quickly and more cheaply, and will support Bristol City Council's commitment to ensuring social good comes out of its procurement of new homes. This project will allow the council to create a tested and nationally-replicable delivery model that encourages the use of MMC solutions and modular building techniques, within a local authority context. It will lead to better quality homes that support a community and improve the life and wellbeing of the household, as well as being more sustainable, more affordable to run and maintain, and use less waste and embodied carbon at design stage and throughout the life of the building. The impact of this programme is already being recognised and in October 2021, the consortium won the (Project) Masterplanning Award at the prestigious #HousingDesignAwards for its Bonnington housing development.

Key Insight

In 2019, Bristol City Council (BCC) launched The Bristol Housing Festival - a five year project to open conversations around the future of housing and pilot new ideas, with the goal of finding scalable solutions. Part of the Festival explored the value benefits of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), and make the city an exhibition of the most inventive uses of construction to tackle its housing crisis. One area where MMC can be tested and enabled is in local authority housing development where commercial land values have less impact on the risk portfolio of development. BCC, YTKO and BRE saw an opportunity to deliver on the vision of the Bristol Housing Festival as well as the commitments made in the council's Social Value Policy which outlines its promise to improve living standards, social equity and sustainability. Further motivated by Homes England’s commitment to nurture a more diverse supply chain in the UK housing market and unlock barriers to entry, saw the collaborative apply for funding to kick off its demonstrator project.

First step

Bristol City Council and YTKO committed to Modern Methods of Construction by applying for support from the Transforming Construction Challenge (TCC) fund. As well as the £2 million investment, the TCC team helped connect the collaborative to nine leading modular housing companies and two software companies to kick off an extensive Research, Development and Innovation programme called Enabling Housing Innovation for Inclusive Growth. This unique opportunity for a step-changing demonstrator project across nine sites would allow the team to quantify the benefits of MMC and deliver product, process and supply chain improvement. The RD&I aimed to capture evidence to support three core areas:

  1. Site viability. Bristol, like other Metropolitan Authorities, relies on small, complex, urban sites and redevelopment of brownfield sites. It is also looking to aggregate site activities and costs to create economies of scale. Delivery of homes over numerous sites requires liaison and negotiation with many delivery partners, stakeholders and communities, and needs to align with investments in local infrastructure.
  2. Financial viability. Delivering the 458 homes outlined in the funding bid requires around £78m investment. New financial models, to include the private sector, are needed to facilitate future scale and pace.
  3. Cultural and social viability. Cultural and organisational change within councils is needed to improve integration and efficacy in the way social housing is built, requiring evidence that can shift both mindsets and procurement practices. And the same shift needs to take place around public and industry perception of MMC and how it can support not just productivity but improved living standards and even physical and mental health.

Barrier

With a need for social housing, and as an owner of 50% of the 226 hectares allocated for mixed-use housing development, Bristol County Council has a significant part to play in examining the way homes are currently built. It became vital they address whether current building methods offer the most productive, sustainable and affordable solution. The current construction model for social housing has an over-reliance on established, traditional building methods and comes with a perceived risk around changing procurement, planning and legal systems. The proposed evidence from the nine demonstrator projects would challenge this system and show the speed, sustainability and productivity that comes with MMC-based housing solutions.

Process innovation

The Enabling Housing Innovation for Inclusive Growth project wanted to create a nationally replicable delivery model that encourages the use of MMC solutions and modular building techniques to deliver more affordable homes, more quickly and in a most cost effective way. The demonstrator project revealed that only 17% of existing supply chain have worked with MMC and modular building techniques. To address this, the consortium is working closely with the local supply chain to ensure that the MMC market has pathways to pubic procurement so they can benefit from new processes. Bristol City Council (BCC) often lacks a full and complete picture of which MMC solution would be best placed to deliver against their strategic policies. And importantly, to build the evidence around the benefits of building MMC-homes at scale, there needed to be a co-ordinated, synergic data capture and analysis. To answer this, BCC and YKTO has developed an Optioneering Tool. The tool provides comprehensive access to the emerging MMC market and helps develop pathways through institutional barriers such as procurement, planning and legal, so that MMC housing is delivered quickly and affordably in a compliant and scalable way. It also draws on local knowledge to identify the most viable sites and construction options to build homes. This will help prioritise the development of land already in public ownership. Lastly, the project is trialling smaller panellised systems (SIPS) and volumetric solutions with MMC partners across the South of England to show how more units can be built on site and support more flexible builds that need to adapt to less-than-standard site spaces, which can often be a problem in city centres. For example, Zedpods Chalk Road development is a zero carbon development made up of 11 environment-friendly apartments built on steel frame stilts on a council-owned car park. Modulous has developed MMC flats above a church in South East London.

Digital Innovation

Bristol City Council and YTKO developed a digital toolbox to help suppliers use the project learning to improve their product and delivery processes, and increase supply chain capacity. It can also be shared with other local authorities to support their own decision-making around how best to use MMC. This tool allows the user to trial different scenarios to understand the type of modular provider they need - environmental, social value, cost and type of design. It also provides a comprehensive snapshot of the modular housing market and sets the specification for the procurement. The project team set targets against existing housing delivery models, and identified KPIs that go beyond productivity and track social impact, public perception and occupant experience as well as supply chain efficacy, whole-life performance, quality and environmental impact. These KPIs will inform a major programme of data and information capture from participating MMC supply chains.

Whole life innovation

The learnings from this project are being turned into a council change model which, supported by the data held in the digital toolbox, will help local authorities across the UK to address their own housing challenges. It will help their decision-making around how best to use MMC improve social value, use of specialist skills, location of sites, supply chain capacity, and economic, technical and environmental impact. In fact several other local authorities have already made approaches to use the digital tool and benefit from the learnings in the model. Councils can take these learnings into housing procurement to ensure that future contracts are awarded based on value, not just low cost. Bristol City Council has already identified key changes needed to help address these organisational challenges. They include the creation of a single, multi-disciplinary delivery team; active management of a single annual housing delivery programme; simplified strategic governance and decision-making; interventions to remove barriers and accelerate delivery; revised key policy and guidance documents; and better public engagement and education, including a public expo.

Collaborators

This has been a large and complex project, with interactions between MMC construction, council departments, digital and tool developers and Transforming Construction all needing to be effectively managed. As lead commercial partner, YTKO led the project and developed the Optioneering Toolkit. It coordinated with the MMC-based housing providers and acted as main point of contact with Transforming Construction and the collaborative. BRE, with extensive experience of managing large collaborative R&D projects and helped to capture data and performance KPIs from the nine main sites. Bristol City Council, in partnership with the Bristol Housing Festival, co-ordinated across the council departments and drove support for the change model development. It helped address blockages within councils (procurement, cultural change, social issues) and remaining regulatory, technical and financial barriers in the wider use of MMCs. 9 MMC housing providers based across the South of England took part in this demonstrator project. The 9 partners were: Boklok, Project Etopia, L&G, Totally Modular, Modulous, Snug Homes, Tempo, Zedpods and Knowle West Media Centre (KWM). KWM is also working with 4 SME MMC providers: AUAR, U-Build, Moss and blokbuild. The partners will test MMC on live sites. For example Modulous is developing a Housing Scheme site on Romney Avenue in Bristol to capture real world evidence of these techniques in action. The Bristol Housing Festival team supported stakeholder groups, ran workshops to define project outcomes, and developed the council change model.

  • AUAR
  • BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials
  • Bristol City Council
  • Bristol Housing Festival
  • Construction Innovation Hub
  • Knowle West Media Centre
  • L&G
  • Modulous
  • Moss
  • Project Etopia
  • Snug Homes
  • Tempo
  • Totally Modular
  • U-Build
  • YTKO
  • ZED PODS
  • blokbuild
  • boklok

Lead support

With shared goals around how Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) can support productivity and sustainability in the industry, Transforming Construction Challenge provided over £2m of funding and was able to connect the collaborative to nine leading, Bristol-based modular housing companies and two software companies to support the RD&I programme. The momentum resourcing provided by this funding has allowed Bristol City Council to integrate expertise across departments, addressing council-level barriers to the delivery of new homes in a coordinated manner. It has also helped the partners secure continuity grants for COVID related issues and ongoing support. And it introduced important contacts to help raise the outcome profile, such as two separate proof of concept trials by Buildots, Active Building Control and Once Source of Truth (CR&D R2).

Long Term Vision

Bristol City Council set out to test Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and offsite production as a way to support its commitment to ensuring social good comes out of its procurement of new homes - homes that support a community and improve the life and wellbeing of the household, as well as being more sustainable, more affordable to run and maintain, and use less waste and embodied carbon at design stage and throughout the life of the building. Greater evidence around the social and environmental value of MMC will also help establish local supply chains, and lead to the creation of new jobs for local people. It will provide other local authorities and partners with the relevant data and best practice they need to tackle their own construction challenges and improve the speed and quality of social housing across the country.

Human Stories

Bristol City Council and the aims of The Bristol Housing Festival are focused on creating homes that support communities and improve the life and wellbeing of households. Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and offsite production can provide homes more quickly and more cheaply, but importantly they can help build better quality places to live - homes that are more sustainable and affordable to run and maintain with improved living standards and even benefits to physical and mental health. And to protect local workforce, the partnership has been working with local supply chain to provide more opportunities to work closely with the local authorities to benefit the MMC-based housing sector. In early 2021, YTKO won a Workforce for the Future bid with West England Combined Authority to develop MMC Common Competency Framework and MMC Regional Centre of Excellence Skills Campaign.

Powerful Processes

The RD&I aimed to capture evidence to support three core areas: site viability, financial viability and cultural or social viability. The project explored how Modern Methods of Construction and offsite and modular techniques could maximise site footprints and minimise costs. YTKO's optioneering tool will help assess sites and provide construction options that can be used to build homes on it. This will help prioritise the development of land already in public ownership. Smaller panellised systems (SIPS) will mean more flexible builds can be delivered to less-than-standard site spaces, which can often be a problem in urban cities. For example, Zedpods has just completed a project on 'stilts' above a council-owned carpark. And delivering 458 homes for £78m investment will require new financial models as well as cultural and organisational change within local authorities. The collaborative has created a way to capture and share data in a digital toolbox to help local authorities across the UK with their decision-making around how best to use MMC improve social value, use of specialist skills, location of sites, supply chain capacity, and economic, technical and environmental impact.

Fascinating Facts

Bristol’s One City Plan for 2050 is that everybody has access to affordable housing in a safe, thriving community. Bristol City Council plans to invest £78m in social housing over the next 5 years. It has committed to build 2,000 homes annually, with around 800 of those being affordable housing. In 2019, Bristol City Council (BCC) launched The Bristol Housing Festival - a five year project to open conversations around the future of housing and pilot new ideas, with the goal of finding scalable solutions. Bristol is not only ahead of the curve on MMC but has also pledged for its housing to be net carbon zero by 2030 - 20 years ahead of the UK’s legal target. 9 MMC housing providers across the South of England are taking part in this demonstrator project: Boklok, Project Etopia, L&G, Totally Modular, Modulous, Snug Homes, Tempo, Zedpods and Knowle West Media Centre. This demonstrator will develop a council change model that can be replicated by other local authorities and enable better demand and supply capacity management. It will be supported by a digital toolbox that captures and shares data from the demonstrator project which other local authorities can use, to help their decision-making.

Benefits

Collaboration
The consortium, led by YTKO, BRE and Bristol City Council, and containing nine leading MMC housing providers, will not only seek to develop new processes to deliver cheaper, better quality, more inclusive MMC housing; it will also develop the tools and resources to help local authorities across the UK drive MMC housing developments. To complement this approach the nine modular partners are all developing their own new approaches across sites in Bristol and the South of England and in doing so, creating an ecosystem of local supply chains that use MMC for social housing builds.

Diversity
Bristol City Council and YTKO have engaged communities and groups which often remain disenfranchised from this type of programme. In the West of England, YTKO has engaged nearly 40% of all its beneficiaries from BAME backgrounds and over 67% are female. Furthermore, the project will engage Housing Associations such as Ashley Community Housing which works exclusively with residents from refugee backgrounds. The test sites are creating affordable homes that support minority communities or those with diverse needs. Modulous has led sites such as The Bear in Lewisham that has created 33 affordable half way homes over a replacement Church and community facility; Greenacre Independent Living in Faversham with 12 assisted living homes for those with autism where the acoustic performance is particularly important; and Romney Avenue in Bristol which will be a BCC Housing Scheme. In addition, some of the nine demonstrator sites are actively recruiting for a more gender and skills-diverse workforce by promoting the alternative working environments of MMC, flexible shift patterns and opportunity to learn new skills and qualification. And as part of the legacy from this project, the consortium has committed to improving opportunities for diversity within the construction sector and YTKO’s CEO, Bev Hurley CBE, has formed and chairs an All-Party Parliamentary Research Group into social value in construction. 

Emissions
The minimisation of embodied carbon and energy in use for housing are key targets for this project and will be monitored as part of the project. Metrics being measured include thermal performance of the new homes, reduced waste on site and reduction in site traffic.

Regional Balance
One of the aims of the project is to support, and work closely with, local supply chain partners to ensure they have fair and transparent access to market opportunities in MMC, so they can benefit from the new processes, not risk being displaced by them. By stimulating the MMC-based housing sector, this project will help create jobs. It will also address skills shortages in the wider construction sector and drive local growth. Totally Modular are also running a design competition with the University of West of England Architecture school in February 2021 to encourage the students to consider MMC solutions and to demonstrate the use of standardised modules to create emergency accommodation on housing allocation sites across Bristol.

Uptake
Bristol City Council is addressing barriers that block the mainstream use of MMCs at council level. This demonstrator will develop a council change model that can be replicated by other local authorities and enable better demand and supply capacity management. It will be supported by a digital toolbox that captures and shares data from the demonstrator project which other local authorities can use, to help their decision-making. Councils can then take these learnings into housing procurement to ensure that future contracts are awarded based on value, not just low cost. Together YTKO and The Bristol Housing Festival are also working with a number of procurement framework providers to create a procurement solution which ties into the optioneering tool. This has already received additional engagement from four other local authorities.

Whole-life Value
The manufacturing processes tested on these 9 demonstrator sites will support Bristol City Council's commitment to ensure ensure social good comes out of its procurement of new homes. With YKTO and BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, the council is building better quality places to live - homes that support a community and improve the life and wellbeing of the household, as well as being more sustainable, more affordable to run and maintain, and use less waste and embodied carbon at design stage and throughout the life of the building. The partners also plan to use the project findings to re-contextualise the conversation around MMC and analyse the whole-cost performance data for the builds. The University of the West of England and help the partners analyse this data to create a complete picture of residents’ benefits and improved health, wellbeing and ROI performance.