July 20, 2024

Stofix UK Ltd/Caxton Midlands Group Ltd – Moving with the times

It is clear that the UK construction sector is changing rapidly as operators continue to contend with the stream of new challenges that are coming their way. For its part, Caxton Midlands Group Ltd has been protected from several of these issues thanks to the assistance of its sister company, Stofix UK Ltd, which specialises in providing modern building solutions, particularly the supply of brick slips, as Alex Porter, Operations Director, recently outlined to Construction Industry News.

“The whole of the UK construction industry is changing in terms of how buildings are designed and developed and as a consequence new and more innovative solutions are being required,” explains Mr Porter. “The more brick façade systems that come into the market, the more people better understand the benefits they provide. It’s not only due to the ability to reduce build times onsite; you’re reducing costs for frames, you’re reducing costs for foundations and you’re able to make a building watertight much earlier in the programme and remove the façade from the critical path for production onsite.”

While there’s a raft of onsite advantages, there are a plethora of offsite benefits to be had too, especially on the back of the rising cost of energy. “The brick manufacturers are looking to manufacture their own brick slips as they can now produce five for the cost of a single brick. Brick slips are not currently a common building item in the UK but the major manufacturers, like Ibstock and Wienerberger are changing their views on how they should invest in the future, to respond to a changing market and to be more environmentally conscious. Brick slip systems are a great way of promoting that.

“There are also numerous safety benefits to be had because offsite manufacturing drastically reduces the amount of work & labour that is required onsite. We train operatives to install the system and as long as they follow our design information &  instructions it is fully warranted from our side. All the panels are designed to be below manual handling regulations, so there should be nothing that requires a two-person lift. It’s a lot more friendly to the operative, which is so important these days.”

Originating in Finland nearly 30 years ago, Stofix certainly has the experience and expertise of manufacturing brick slip façade systems that few can match,  and this knowledge has proven essential since it began supplying the UK market around six years ago. Caxton Midland Group bought Stofix UK in 2020 in its entirety and since then it has busily promoting the system across the construction market and its Caxton Builders Midlands & Newly formed Caxton Facades arm. Caxton Midlands Group is a  well-established brickwork sub-contactor that has been developing an ever-growing portfolio of customers during the course of the past 12 years or so “Caxton Builders & Caxton facades are now in the realms of delivering £4m or £5m masonry & facade packages, which is substantial,” says Alex Porter. “You only need a couple of those projects run well to have a good year.”

Making the most of Stofix’s brick slip system, Caxton Builders Midlands has been involved in a number of prestigious projects in recent years including:

  • Vistry partnership – Box Makers Yard Bristol

Supplied circa 6,000 sqm of Stofix Brick cladding across two buildings. Brick slips were provided by Ibstock Brick;

System was installed by Caxton Builders Midlands on a sub-contract basis; 

Completed in 2021.

  • Tolent Construction – Milburngate Development Durham

Supplied circa 6000 sqm of Stofix Cladding across five buildings;

System was installed by Caxton Builders Midlands on a sub-contract basis;

Completion due end 2022.

  • Bowmer + Kirkland – Thames Park School

Supplied approximately 800 sqm of Stofix Cladding;

This scheme was the first of the DofE Schools framework to use the Stofix System. Part of the school was built in a factory by Innovare in Coventry, with the remainder of the school being built onsite.

The project has since won an award for ‘Best Use of Hybrid Technology’ at the Offsite Awards.

As it looks to build on the award-winning success of its previous projects, Caxton Midlands Group & Stofix UK remain keen on making the most of the opportunities that the market is currently providing with PRS (Private Rental Sector) and offsite modular building proving fruitful at the moment. The Stofix system is also approved on the Department of Education framework, enabling it to supply schools with external brick systems for the next two years.

Stofix UK have secured the following new projects, with Installation of the system by Caxton facades Ltd

  • Winvic Construction – Kent Street Baths Development Birmingham

Glenhowells Architects

10,000 sqm Stofix Brick façade, using Feldhaus Brick Slips

Stofix install that started onsite in September with completion due in September 2023.

  • Winvic Construction  – Holloway Head Development Birmingham

500 apartments PRS;

12,000 sqm Stofix Brick façade using Feldhaus Brick Slips

Corstophine & Wright Architects;

Stofix installation starts in December 2022. 

  • Bowmer + Kirkland – Ark Education City London

3,000 sqm Stofix Brick façade using Sant Anselmo Brick Slips

Install starts in January 2023 with completion due in October 2023.

Despite its healthy pipeline of work, Caxton Midlands Group & Stofix UK hasn’t been immune to the hurdles that all businesses are having to overcome at the moment, such as the rising cost of materials.

“Everything seems to be a bit of a challenge at the moment, over the past couple of years the changes in import duties & process has caused issues due to the additional paperwork and the resulting increase in staffing that has been needed to make the process work,” says Mr Porter. “The cost of living and rising energy prices has had a knock-on effect with the supply of materials in Europe. It’s not just a UK problem as the issues are being seen Europe-wide, if not globally. We price all jobs to accommodate those changes and, although these hurdles are considerable, they haven’t proven insurmountable.

“Thankfully the pandemic was less of an issue and when Covid first hit we closed for about four weeks running on Skeleton staff from March to the middle of April, since then we’ve been back full-time. We came out of the first lockdown with more orders and more work on the books than we’ve ever had. Due to expansion of the business we moved offices after buying new premises in Derby. Although the lockdown did put a strain on everybody, the construction sector did grow considerably during this period.

“We’re now hoping to keep this momentum going and we are confident that the overall group will double its turnover in the next two years to around £40m. Geographically Stofix will supply anywhere in the UK. Our products are manufactured in Poland and we ship nationally across England, Wales, Scotland and the whole of Ireland.

With plenty of notable projects in its portfolio, the group has plenty to look forward to. “For the next 12 months we will keep working on the frameworks we’ve been approved for, as well as continuing to develop our offsite construction offering. We’re looking to develop further routes into those markets and we’re currently in discussions with various contractors dealing with MoD works and Criminal Justice. The Government is increasingly looking for fast and effective solutions to replace existing building stock or to extend them. These are the kind of markets that we’re looking at in more detail. Everything is manufactured offsite in a factory and delivered directly to site and installed quickly. We’re going to be focusing heavily on that, but we will also be working on the larger construction schemes as well.

“In terms of the business, we’re looking to increase the capacity that we can manufacture in the factory, as the rise in demand has been substantial over the last two years. We’re therefore looking to develop what we do in Poland and increasing efficiencies there, as well as within the business in the UK. We’re always on a learning curve and we’re forever looking at ways to improve the quality of the product. Our Technical Director Andy Mckecknie is currently developing an entire new CAD system to help deliver and schedule Stofix Materials, we will role this out to European sister companies and integrate with the factory production planning in due course. We’re putting a substantial amount of investment into that side of the business to make it as efficient as we can moving into 2023 and beyond.”

With such a forward-thinking approach, the group looks well set for further growth and expansion as it strives to make more in-roads into the markets in which it operates.