With Homes England – the government’s housing accelerator – being tasked with generating a significant hike in the number of new homes of all kinds nationwide, notable beneficiaries of their Building Fund include off-site fabricators of modular buildings whose use is set to boom as the production of new homes ramps up when the UK eases its way out of lockdown.
But specialist development lawyer Zoe Stollard warns those involved all along the design, production and installation chain that because the number of variables involved in modular projects will be very different to traditional build projects they should seek expert legal advice at the outset, to avoid getting their fingers burnt further down the line.
Zoe Stollard, who is a partner in Clarke Willmott LLP’s construction team, said: “Modular homes have been around for some time, but new technologies and the UK’s growing housing need are resulting in a boom in demand which is likely to change building methods across the board.
“This will impact on the way the various parties work with each other, on build times, repairs and maintenance programmes, contract models, cooperation with utility providers and statutory undertakers to name but a few.
“And so the increase in the use of modular buildings is likely to have a noticeable impact not just on building methods but on the required workforce, design control, contractual mechanism and cross-party interactions across the sector as a whole.
“For this reason it is crucial that the parties involved do not rush into a modular build project before considering bespoke amendments to the agreements they use.
“Modular projects are exciting, innovative and really promising if used on the right development in the right way but – particularly given the likely rapid pace once works commence – a well thought-out contract from the outset will assist in the ’low cost, high speed’ approach being a success.”
Modular homes producer Ilke Homes, which received a £30m injection from Homes England at the end of 2019, recently welcomed Simone Protheroe who leads Clarke Willmott’s construction cases for Homes England, and members of the wider Clarke Willmott Construction Team to their factory in Flaxby, Yorkshire, for a tour of live modular operations which illustrated the issues and potential challenges surrounding the method of construction involved in modular building. The factory is expected to deliver 2,000 homes next year, and the recent investment is intended to help boost its annual capacity to 5,000 homes within the next five years.
Following the visit, Simone Protheroe said: “There are most impressive steps forward being demonstrated in the sector but advance planning is key to modular contracting and solutions need to be found at pre-tender, not just before start on site or whilst on site as too much of the works will, in effect, be complete by this stage.”
Parties involved in any part of the modular design, build and installation process can find a useful free analysis by Simone and Zoe of the most prominent benefits and challenges for modular homes and what this is likely to mean for construction contract and project relationships on Clarke Willmott’s website at https://www.clarkewillmott.com/news/modular-homes-rethinking-the-industry-means-rethinking-your-contracts/
Clarke Willmott is a national law firm with seven offices across the country in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton. For more information visit www.clarkewillmott.com .