As the Covid restrictions continue to ease, businesses are regaining their confidence and having a much more positive outlook. For Bradford-based contractor Cardinal, the future is looking particularly bright thanks to a growing order book and a blossoming collaboration with Atkins that has seen the development of a prototype system that aims to provide an affordable solution to the UK’s housing shortage.
“We’re particularly excited about the collaboration with Atkins, who have created a subsidiary called Edaroth, which stands for ‘Everybody deserves a roof over their head’,” explains Michael Brearey, Construction Director. “We’ve been involved in the project for three years and it’s been a real journey of discovery. The mission has been to develop a system that can help with the UK’s social housing crisis by providing homes that can be built cost effectively at a price that is affordable for local authorities and housing associations.
“It is a panelised metal structure concept that can be transported to smaller or more complex sites much more easily than the usual volumetric style of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), which tends to involve transporting large units on the back vehicles with specialist support. Due to their size it can be a real struggle to get into small sites and a great deal of additional careful planning is required on the logistical side. The Edaroth system, however, aims to get rid of all of that. It is made up of panels that can be easily transported before being lifted into position and assembled onsite. It’s an amazing product and we’re keen to push forward with it.”
Being able to access smaller sites starting at four units is a major advantage as it allows under utilised land to be unlocked, something that is increasingly important with viable locations for housing development currently being so scarce. At the same time the system can also be implemented on larger schemes of 50-100 units, so there’s a high degree of flexibility. Further research and development work is taking place to maximise the benefits further, a process that Cardinal is heavily involved in.
“We are currently carrying out a number feasibility studies to see how many units can be delivered to particular sites and how we can develop them differently,” says Mr Brearey. “It’s very much an ongoing learning process. In addition, we’re keen to make the most of the system’s green credentials from a sustainability perspective by implementing solar panels and more economical heating systems. We are also seeking to gain the NHBC Accepts accreditation, which is the standard for offsite MMC-constructed homes that dovetails nicely with the NHBC accreditation for traditionally built houses.
“Having proved that the concept works we have now transformed the prototype into a show home at one of the facilities we own, which gives us the opportunity to highlight the quality of the system to a wider audience. We are working as a team on a number of schemes for different clients and we have been talking to various local authorities, housing associations and developers as we look to bring it to fruition. It is a great feeling to be involved in the development of a system that offers so many social benefits, both at a community level and a national level. There’s a real buzz within the business.”
As well as continuing to progress with the development of the panelised system with Edaroth, Cardinal is also pushing ahead with a range of projects in a number of different sectors, particularly retail, which is really beginning to pick up now that the restrictions have eased. In terms of more specialised work, the company is moving along with a number of listed building schemes, including a million-pound project to replace the roof on a listed building in the centre of Harrogate, as well as further works at Cannon Hall in Barnsley.
Healthcare is another significant sector for Cardinal and it has delivered a number of centres for Covid testing and vaccinations as well as completing a large number of schemes for the NHS. It also designed and installed a large vaccination centre for the University of Leeds to an extremely tight timescale, as Mr Brearey outlines: “From starting the design through to manufacture and installation took just two weeks, but we were able to deliver above the standard that was expected by the University. It’s always great to be able to help out with projects like this and be able to give something back to the NHS.”
It’s clear that Cardinal is seeing a growing number of opportunities across the board, which is enabling the company to put the comprehensive skillset of its highly trained workforce to full use. “We’re tendering for a lot of work at the moment across a multitude of sectors and they are all appearing to be much more positive in their outlook. The last year or so has been extremely challenging but it has given us the chance, as a board of directors, to focus strategically on where we want the business to go and what revenue and work streams we want to get into. We’ve looked at which sectors work for Cardinal as a business and which sectors don’t, while it has also allowed us to upskill our staff through training. We have mentored a number of our colleagues through their journey to becoming chartered, which is really positive, and as an organisation we have become a chartered building company with the CIOB. A massive achievement that we are extremely proud of.
“We might not always be the cheapest contractor out there but we always provide an excellent service in order to deliver a quality project. This is reflected in the high proportion of repeat clients we have, some of which have worked with us for upwards of 20 years.”
Further underlining the quality standards it adheres to, Cardinal has won several awards in recent years and is in the running for yet more this summer. “We’re going down to London in July with quite a few of the team for the series of awards finals,” says Mr Brearey. “We will hopefully return with the trophy, as it would be a great recognition for everyone’s hard work and dedication throughout such a difficult time. In the months ahead we’re keen to build the business back to what it was before and we’re extremely fortunate to have some great people within the organisation to help make this possible.”
While further award recognition is surely only a matter of time, the collaboration with Atkins and the growing range of projects it is securing in a variety of different areas means that Cardinal has every right to look ahead with renewed confidence.