Housing associations launch £2bn modular framework

The drive to offsite took a step forward this week with the announcement that more than 90 housing associations have come together to launch a £2bn modular framework and government announced plans to build four new prisons using modern methods of construction, including standardised components manufactured offsite.

The Central Housing Investment Consortium (CHIC) has begun the search for modular firms to build volumetric homes across England and Wales as part of a £2bn framework.

The CHIC, which is made up of 92 housing associations, local authorities, and ALMOs is procuring three contracts for the manufacture, supply and erection of homes. Two lots include all associated construction works in a ‘turnkey’ approach, while with the third, the site works, will be an option.

CHIC devised solutions for the development of new homes branded as ‘Buildsmart’. Members can access frameworks and contracts for the provision of consultants and contractors to undertake the development of new housing projects utilising traditional construction, timber frame construction or modular housing. The latest procurement is designed to strengthen the Buildsmart options by providing a new contract for the provision of modular.

Contractors will have to be able to demonstrate a track record in delivering modular construction and will have to have an established production facility for modular building elements.

The first lot is worth £303m, the second £572m and the third £1.17bn. Each is for a duration of five years but has the option to be extended by two subsequent periods of five years, giving an overall contract term of 15 years.

Meanwhile, the four new jails, the first of which will be built next to HMP Full Sutton, in East Yorkshire, will be constructed over the next six years.

Work is underway to identify locations for a further prison in the north west of England and two in the south east.

The prisons are part of the government’s £2.5bn programme to create 10,000 additional prison places.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the new buildings would employ modern methods of construction already incorporated into the new prison being built at Wellingborough by Kier. The facility embraces the Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach, integrating digital tools to drive efficiencies in the design, construction and operation of the facility.

The four new prisons will also adopt DfMA, building on lessons from recent school construction work. The MoJ said it hoped to see quicker assembly times, lower energy use, better environmental performance as a result, with components such as concrete walls, and pipework for water and electricity built offsite using modern, standardised processes and assembled on site.

The announcements come as prime minister Boris Johnson promised a “Rooseveltian” programme of investment in Britain and has pledged to “build, build, build” to bring the country out of recession after the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson has announced a “New Deal” with £5bn of investment to accelerate infrastructure projects, create jobs and revitalise the economy.

However, commenting on Twitter, Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis said: “The important point to note about the prime minister’s promises to ‘build, build, build’ is that it is not new, additional money despite all the public relations and spin behind it.”

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