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Modular housing

A prototype house manufactured and fully fitted-out by the McAvoy Group in their Lisburn factory, before being craned into position at Clanmil’s Joymount scheme in Carrickfergus.

A prototype house manufactured and fully fitted-out by the McAvoy Group in their Lisburn factory, before being craned into position at Clanmil’s Joymount scheme in Carrickfergus.

Carol McTaggart, Group Director of Development with the Clanmil Housing Group in Northern Ireland, discusses the delivery of the first social homes in the region to be delivered using off-site construction.

McTaggart believes that modular housing can play an important role in solving Northern Ireland’s housing shortfall, with some 24,000 households currently in need of homes.

Highlighting the wider social and economic benefits of delivering housing at lower costs, the Group Director of Development outlines the findings of  research which shows lower housing costs are of particular value in easing poverty in Northern Ireland. This can be evidenced by the fact that the extent of overall child poverty in the province reduces from being 1 per cent higher than the UK average before taking account of housing costs, to being 4 per cent below the average after taking account of housing costs.

A modular home is one that is built indoors in a factory-like setting. The finished products are covered and transported to their new locations, where they are assembled by a builder. Significantly, a modular home is not a mobile home: it is simply a home that is built off-site. In the UK, the Government sees off-site manufacture as a huge opportunity and has promised to support housing providers to build more homes in this way.

Based out of a head office in Belfast, the Clanmil Housing Group is one of the largest social housing providers in Northern Ireland. It provides high quality, affordable homes for rent and purchase throughout Northern Ireland. The organisation’s aim is to help facilitate home ownership for people who are not in a position to purchase a home outright.

Outlining the ambitions of Clanmil, McTaggart says: “Our vision is to ensure that everyone should have a great home. As of 31 March 2018, we have constructed 4,601 homes. The group has an annual turnover of £31 million with the delivery of 930 new social homes currently in the development stage.”

August 2018 saw Clanmil commit to its first modular housing project. The initiative has been developed in conjunction with the Lisburn-based McAvoy Group. Forty new homes on the site of the former Woodside’s Foodstore in Carrickfergus will be the first social homes in Northern Ireland delivered using off-site construction.

The £6.2 million ‘Joymount’ housing scheme, a mix of family houses and apartments for active older people, is being built by Clanmil with the assistance of £3.1 million grant support from the Department for Communities.

The new homes, each made up of a number of steel-framed modules, will be manufactured and fully fitted-out by McAvoy in its Lisburn factory before being craned into position on site.

Designed by Knox Clayton Architects, the Joymount development will feature eight one- and two-bedroom apartments for couples and families; 17 two-bedroom apartments for active older people, and 12 two-bedroom houses for families. There will also be three detached bungalows specifically designed for individual families with complex needs.

The modules will be delivered to Carrickfergus complete with kitchens, bathrooms, windows, flooring and decorated walls, ready to be brought together to create modern, high quality homes.

Using this state-of-the-art manufacturing solution, an entire house can be erected on pre-prepared foundations in a single day, ready for connection to gas, electricity and water supplies.

McTaggart confirms that this modern method of construction will reduce the build time for the Carrickfergus development by 56 weeks compared to traditional site-based building methods, delivering 40 new homes in just nine months. It is also a more environmentally sustainable approach which provides energy efficient homes that are easy to heat and affordable to run for the families who live in them.

She continues: “Modular construction techniques bring with them many benefits. These include faster completion times; predictability on completion, enhanced quality control plus the attainment of enhanced health and safety standards.

“From an environmental perspective, there is less vehicle movement plus less waste and recycling. And, above all else, people spend a reduced amount of time on waiting lists.

“Modular also addresses the challenge posed by the rising cost of building materials plus the shortage of skilled labour within the construction sector.

“We see off-site construction as the future. It could completely revolutionise house-building and we are delighted to be partnering with The McAvoy Group, a Northern Ireland company well known for its experience and expertise in modular construction for other sectors, on this its first residential project.”

The new homes are scheduled to be ready for families in Spring 2019.

McTaggart also outlines that the Joymount scheme is located adjacent to a conservation area, close to the 12th Century Carrickfergus Castle. A historic wall forms one of the boundaries to the site which McAvoy will undertake works to preserve.

The design of the scheme reflects its location and draws inspiration from the historic buildings nearby. Materials such as slate roofing, white render and timber windows have been selected to be natural and in keeping with the conservation area.

The new homes are designed in accordance with Lifetime Homes standards. They will benefit from timber-framed double glazing, more precise factory construction processes, and high levels of insulation to help reduce heating costs and energy consumption.

McTaggart adds: “We want to be able to deliver new homes more quickly for people on the housing waiting list whilst still maintaining our high standards of design and build quality. We also need a solution that will deliver a range of energy-efficient homes with affordable running costs for our tenants.

“Significant time savings can be achieved with offsite construction. Offsite manufacture avoids delays caused by poor weather and it improves both quality and health and safety – with less impact on the environment.”

She concludes: “At Clanmil, we provide high quality, affordable homes for rent throughout Northern Ireland and help facilitate home ownership for people who are not in a position to purchase a home outright.

“We believe that housing is about people and our focus is our customers. We want to make a positive difference to our tenants’ lives and invest in neighbourhoods to create places where people are proud to live and raise their families and where they can prosper.”