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Sun July 03 2022

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Flat-pack house-builders picked for social housing

17 May Building Better, an alliance of housing associations and local authorities, has appointed an initial six manufacturers to its new dynamic purchasing system (DPS) for flat-pack housing.

Panelised building system [Image form Sigmat]
Panelised building system [Image form Sigmat]

Building Better has selected Future Built, LoCal Homes, Project Etopia, Roe Timberframe, Sigmat and Starship Homes to provide flat-pack panelised systems that are assembled on-site – MMC category 2 in the jargon.

The DPS is expected to be worth £600m over the four-year term and will run in parallel with Building Better’s MMC category 1 framework, launched last year, for volumetric systems – complete accommodation boxes prefabricated in factories and craned into place on site. Top Hat, Ilke Homes and Impact Modular are on that list currently.

Building Better took the decision to create a dynamic purchasing system rather  than a fixed framework to allow manufacturers to join at any point during the term of the arrangement. The category 2 segment of the offsite market is evolving rapidly with new products and manufacturers emerging all the time, it said. By setting up a DPS, social housing providers can access the latest solutions and suppliers as they come to market.

More than 215,000 homes are managed by the 29 housing associations and local authorities that make up Building Better. Since the launch of its volumetric framework in 2021, alliance members have put nearly 40 schemes through it, getting costs on over 900 prefab homes. With the launch of its DPS, Building Better expects to help the social housing sector to produce around 5,000 factory-built properties by 2026.

Building Better project director Trina Chakravarti said: “The emerging nature of this part of the MMC marketplace means that social housing organisations have, to date, been wary of category 2. Some told us they were anxious about committing to a panelised manufacturer; not knowing if the company or even this form of MMC would be around in four years. Because of this, we knew a different procurement approach was needed; one that would still provide high standards and ease of access like our category 1 framework, but a solution that didn’t ‘clip the wings’ of manufacturers operating in such a fluid environment.”

John Bellamy, construction & sustainability manager at Procurement for Housing (PfH), said: “A major benefit of setting up a DPS is the learning. As an alliance, we’ll be able to grow our understanding of what housing organisations actually require with category 2 and the technical solutions they gravitate to. Creating a framework now would have meant guessing the answers. But a DPS allows us to gather data and feedback on products and manufacturers, educating ourselves and helping us to normalise offsite and use it at scale across the sector.”

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