November 14, 2019

Just Solutions/ ModPods International – Modular just the solution for the housing shortage

With the government’s energies continuing to be drained by Brexit, other pressing issues are having to wait in-line, such as the UK’s chronic housing shortage. Thankfully others are taking the lead to help address the problem, such as Just Solutions Limited and its creation of ModPods International, which is using modular construction to build some of the homes the country so desperately needs.

Masterminded by CEO Peter Farrelly and Director of Business, Andy Cornaby, ModPods International came into existence in 2017 and has already made a significant impact on the marketplace, particularly within social housing.

“Pete Farrelly established Just Solutions in 2005 and I joined in 2016 to not only enhance the business further but to also help come up with a model and vehicle for delivering modular housing,” explains Mr Cornaby. “We felt there was a real need for high quality modular homes as a way of tackling the housing shortage.”

The result was the creation of ModPods International, which is all about the design of affordable properties suited to needs of both the private market and the rented accommodation sector for local housing associations. With affordability in mind, the emphasis has been on creating desirable dwellings that satisfy the requirement for temporary and permanent housing. Constructed offsite before being lowered onto a pre-prepared site location, ModPods can be instantly connected to all services and be ready to occupy the same day.

Building on an existing relationship with Birmingham City Council, Mr Cornaby worked in conjunction with Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) to create a prototype two-storey, two-bedroom pod that goes above and beyond NDSS minimum standards as set by Homes England to house up to four people.

Working closely with BMHT, Mr Cornaby and his team secured the prototype design that led to planning permission approval and the transformation of derelict wasteland in Hockley, Birmingham. The lowering of a ModPod onto the land allowed the transfer of a tenant and his son to downsize from a four-bedroom family to a two-bedroom property.

The combined knowledge that Mr Cornaby and Peter Farrelly have of the social housing sector was essential to the success of the BMHT development, particularly their insight into current legislation and compliance.

Whether they are destined for the private or public sector, ModPods offer comfortable affordable homes at two-thirds of the cost of traditional built housing and are available in a range of five unique archetypes. They are constructed to a high quality specification in a clean and precision driven factory environment. Robust steel frame structures are fully insulated and meet all current building and fire regulations, as well as being SAP compliant.

With various additional extras such as sustainable energy technologies, PhotoVoltaic self-adhesive roof systems, water harvesting, ‘Showersave’ technology and modern single and multiple room audio systems, ModPods are built for comfort and security, offering a temporary or permanent solution across a wide demographic. This makes them ideally suited to help meet the current housing shortage.

“It has been well documented that between 3m and 5m properties are needed within the UK over the next 20 years,” outlines Mr Cornaby. “There’s enough brownfield sites in the country to construct a million houses, and this is important to note because our pods are specifically designed for this type of land, such as derelict buildings or old garages. ModPods are ideally suited for these areas because once the land has been cleared we can lower them in very quickly. From receiving the original order from the client, we can turn them around in just 28 days.”

Despite this rapid turnaround and the other clear benefits that ModPods can offer, potential hurdles remain. “The biggest issue we’ve faced involves overcoming the traditional perception that modular construction is of poor quality, a legacy that dates back to the temporary pre-fab buildings that were erected in the 1940s and 1950s. Even though there’s a massive need, up until recently modular was perceived to be like a post-war pre-fab. However, with modern materials and innovation the quality has moved on in leaps and bounds to the extent that our ModPods are now seen as robust, desirable properties. This is underlined by the fact that they’re accredited to the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS), which is a risk based evaluation demonstrating to funders, lenders, valuers and purchasers that homes built from non-traditional methods and materials will stand the test of time and are fully mortgageable for 60 years.”

Although there’s still some ignorance of how far modular building has come in recent years, the work of ModPods International is definitely helping turn the tide. “We are winning that particular battle,” says Mr Cornaby. “When we attended the CIH conference in June in Manchester, which is the largest social housing conference in the country, there was huge interest in our offering. This is a reflection of how much attitudes have changed. What’s more, there are a growing number of forward-thinking modular manufacturers starting to emerge, all offering different modern designs, which is great for competition. However, an MP recently said that even if 300 modular housing providers popped up tomorrow, they still wouldn’t be able to satisfy the housing needs of the UK market within 20 years. This really underlines the scale of opportunity available for modular and how much work there is to do.

“In the UK modular currently only represents 2% of all new homes, with the rest being traditional build. In contrast, in Sweden 94% of all new builds are modular. Britain is starting to wake up to modular but this is only a small indication of just how big modular could be.”

With so much potential to go at, ModPods International is gearing itself up to make the most of the opportunity by opening a new factory in November. This will allow the company to increase its rate of construction to around 20 pods a week. The intention is to create pop-up manufacturing hubs around the country to maximise efficiency, reduce transport costs and increase the benefits for the local economy.

“We won’t have one central hub because that makes delivery expensive. Instead we will have a factory in each area so we want to build an ever broadening network of clients across the country.”

At the same time as it’s developing its own production capabilities, ModPods International is also striving to keep building its relationships with its supply chain.

“We’ve got some great partners that supply our fabrication and other elements and we’ll definitely be taking them along the journey with us moving forward. They’re an integral part of our overall operation.

Having made such solid progress in a relatively short period and with the UK’s housing shortage crisis not going to be solved anytime soon, ModPods International looks ideally placed to play a part in helping address the problem. Hopefully others will follow its lead.