September 30, 2020

M-AR Limited – The industry’s best kept secret

Shortlisted for ‘Best approach to modular’ in the Inside Housing Development Awards M-AR Off-Site are the industry’s best kept secret!

M-AR have challenged many a difficult site in its 12-year history but with the completion of their latest residential projects, have proved that its solution focused and partnered approach paid dividends working in collaboration with Henry Riley LLP.

For Henry Riley LLP, the employer’s agent for Housing 21, off-site construction was a new path to tread, but from the start knew they were in safe hands working with M-AR to guide them through their customer journey. A modular solution shouldn’t have been a winning solution for two low volume and bespoke projects such as these, but it was, and not only did it work, it worked when no other solution could.

The modular solution offered by M-AR enabled Apartments and Bungalows to be delivered in tight spaces, in winter weather, with cost predictability and with speed linked to the release of Homes England funding, and it all started with a tweet!

Henry Riley’s goal was to find the perfect partner who shared its values and long-term vision. Harder than it sounds, M-AR soon came to the attention of a Senior Associate at Henry Riley through its social media channels, who swiftly made contact and arranged to visit the factory in East Yorkshire where he met the key deliver team.

Following this initial engagement, M-AR went on to successfully deliver two modular projects in Brighouse and Shrewsbury. Both residential projects needed to run in parallel and were far from simple sites. With time constraints of grants being funded, sloping ground, tight areas to work and existing residents already living close by, Housing 21 leveraged all the advantages of an off-site solution. Speed of delivery and installation to obtain funding; a team of experts from both a traditional and a modular background to address the complex site levels with the best approach; and minimal site disruption for the local residents and community.

In June 2019 M-AR completed the first of the two off-site manufactured retirement housing projects consisting of five one-bedroom bungalows within the grounds of Ward Court, an existing retirement living facility in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. All five bungalows were let within months and were fully occupied with nominations from the local authority, Calderdale Council, having received over 30 applications from a choice based lettings scheme. 

Ward Court is a small existing retirement living complex consisting of 29 units which are a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments with a very strong lettings performance. The court sits on a large plot of land owned by Housing 21. Retirement properties in Brighouse are in high demand and the local authority had a healthy waiting list for older people of modest means awaiting an age-appropriate property to rent. 

After a review of court business plans in 2016/17 the Retirement Housing Manager and Court Manager identified that Ward Court sat on a large plot of land that was under utilised. The existing building used approximately 40% of the space, meaning there was scope for additional development. The garden space was not well used by residents as many residents had mobility challenges. 

In 2018 the development at Ward Court was agreed and signed off and the project quickly gathered pace. Housing 21 enlisted the help of Henry Riley, which provided the support they required in finding a Main Contractor to deliver a full turnkey approach for both of their projects in a frictionless and easy manner.

After finding their partner of choice, in November 2018 Housing 21 awarded a contract to M-AR and within two weeks, work on-site had started. The speed of the work and the care, engagement & diligence shown by M-AR attracted great praise from residents and neighbours of the court.

12 weeks after M-AR started on-site at Ward Court, the bungalow modules were delivered with 10 articulated lorries arriving one after the other and the bungalows being craned in to position within one day. When the modules arrived, 80% of the building and internal fit-out works were completed including the factory installed external brickslip cladding system. The timber roof trusses and tiled pitched roofs were installed on site with final fire alarms and the bespoke compatible Apello emergency call systems installed and linked back to the main existing court facility. In June 2019 the bungalows were completed and residents began to move in.   

The project achieved ‘Secured by Design ‘Silver’ Award and met high acoustic and thermal performance – within the top 8% performing dwellings in the country in relation to air borne sound performance. 

Underlining the quality of the Ward Court project, it has been shortlisted for ‘Best approach to modular’ in the Inside Housing Development Awards. A great achievement for everyone involved and a well deserved nomination.

The second project was a project which consisted of eight, one-bedroom apartments at Richard Onslow Court in Shrewsbury which was the birthplace of the first ever iron framed building, the Ditherington Flax Mill.

Siobhan Moore, Director of Development at Housing 21, said: “M-AR added value right away, with their expertise as a modular contractor to make the project an efficient and cost-effective build. You couldn’t tell it wasn’t a traditional build, even to the trained eye. However, what was different was the attention to detail and quality control.”

Amanda Grimbleby, Sales Director at M-AR Off-site, added: “Our ultimate aim was to provide Housing 21 with a turnkey, predictable construction solution that offered the flexibility and speed required in order to meet their brief without compromise from that of a traditional build. Receiving positive feedback from residents feeling as strongly as Lesley about the build and her experience is extremely rewarding for us and testament to the care and diligence of the team.

“We are proud to be one of the very few off-site manufacturers to have achieved BOPAS (Build Off-site Property Assurance Scheme) accreditation, insurance backed by a BLP warranty as Modern Methods of Construction increasing in popularity for the many benefits it provides, not to mention the minimal disruption to residents and the community, which is key.”  

Residents are already enjoying a better quality of life within a community of homes they are proud to call their home. M-AR’s Marketing & Brand Manager visited Ward Court after completion and met with Lesley, a resident living in one of the new bungalows, who explained: “To me, living here has been life-saving in every way. I feel happier and the ease and cleanliness of this project is just great. I have the opportunity to make new friends and keep myself busy socialising with court activities. I am very happy living here. I absolutely love it. It has changed my life.”

With feedback from residents like this, it’s clear to see how this modern method of construction allows for a clean site without the need for constant traffic movements and lengthy construction periods.

By adopting a partnered approach and engaging collaboratively with key stakeholders, the project became a successful off-site solution, that provided cost and programme certainty, defect free, while adhering to existing planning permission and releasing the all-important funding from Homes England.

In further positive news in the off-site sector, Housing minister, Esther McVey MP has appointed Mark Farmer as champion for Modern Methods of Construction in line with the government’s aim of making the UK the global leader in housing standards.

Ward Court

Esther McVey MP said: “I want to see modern methods of construction – the new gold standard of building, being used up and down the country to usher in a green housing revolution. That’s why it is such fantastic news that Mark Farmer has agreed to be our new MMC champion – to really drive forward innovation, and to help the government deliver a new generation of green homes.”

Mr Farmer has 30 years’ experience that will prove vital in providing independent scrutiny and advice to the Government on how to increase the use of MMC in homebuilding. He also has responsibility for developing the ‘Construction Corridor’ in the North and promoting wider innovation across the sector.

Mr Farmer added: “I am delighted to have been asked to carry out this new role. This is a really important time for the construction industry and there is an urgent need to rethink how we build homes, delivering better quality, improved safety, carbon reduction and an array of exciting new career opportunities.”

Following the completion of not one but two successful residential projects, M-AR Off-Site has demonstrated the strength of its offering, as well as the strong commitment it has to building long term sustainable relationships with its customers.