Based in the south of England, Abri is one of the region’s largest housing providers. It looks after 80,000 customers across 35,000 homes, and has plans to build at least 12,500 new homes by 2030. We spoke to Jake Snell, Abri’s strategic asset and land manager about how they are delivering through the Building Better framework.
What are your development targets?
In September Abri was awarded a grant through the Homes England affordable housing fund which has taken our delivery numbers from 1,000 to 1,250 homes a year. We’ve committed to developing 25% of these using modern methods of construction.
How is your development team using Building Better’s framework?
For them, the framework is a delivery conduit for land-led opportunities. We might enter strategic partnerships and take package deals, but from a land-led perspective, when we need to procure and build, we’re using Building Better’s MMC framework.
What about your inhouse construction team?
They have their own target to build 250 homes a year. One of the ways they will do this is by embracing MMC and managing the principal contractor role in MMC schemes themselves. They will then appoint an offsite supplier through the Building Better framework.
What schemes are you developing through the framework?
We’re currently exploring four new potential options through the framework. This includes schemes of 23 and 39 new MMC homes in Hampshire and West Sussex, as well as a 36-home scheme in Somerset where we are looking to really embrace the net zero carbon and future homes standards model.
How are you working with manufacturers?
With the framework being direct call-off, we don’t have to go through a complex procurement process. Instead we have conversations with suppliers and then appoint. The challenge of finding the right people and going through the lengthy tender process has been completely removed. TopHat, Ilke and Impact Modular are now looking at our sites and we’re running all the numbers with them.
How have you worked out the costs?
Building Better have developed a cost calculator for their first framework which is really helpful. It’s based on a standardised model, so you choose from a range of housing archetypes, confirm the number of units you’re looking to develop and their location. Then it gives you an above ground per square metre ballpark cost, including overheads, profit, delivery and assembly. You can also get an uplift price for making the homes net zero in operation.
What costs have you had back?
A turnkey, all-encompassing solution for a standard low-rise MMC house, based on a clean site of between 50 – 100 homes with standard footings, is working out as around £1,600 per square metre and for apartments, £1,800 – £2,200 per square metre. These costs will be fixed for 12 months through the framework.
These MMC costs are roughly the same as bricks-and-mortar prices, but with MMC, there are big cost savings elsewhere.
MMC homes are built much faster than traditional construction, so you reduce prelim costs, you cut the time you’re being charged interest on your loans, you lessen any disturbance to neighbours and the costs involved in managing that and you get rental income faster.
MMC homes are also built to such a high standard, with significant levels of scrutiny in the manufacturing process, that the points of failure will become less and less. So it’s likely that downstream maintenance costs will reduce too.
Where are your MMC sites?
Built on land provided by Homes England, our Brue Farm MMC site is situated in Highbridge. All of the 123 homes are being made affordable, with 63 homes available for Shared Ownership and 60 for affordable rent.
We’re also currently exploring four new potential options through the Building Better framework. This includes schemes of 23 and 39 new MMC homes in Hampshire and West Sussex, as well as a 36-home scheme in Somerset where we are looking to really embrace the net zero carbon and future homes standards model.
What are the costs?
Based on a clean site of between 50 – 100 homes, with standard footings:
This works out roughly the same as bricks-and-mortar prices but with MMC you also save on prelims, loan interest, neighbourhood disturbance and downstream maintenance.
What’s the price uplift to net zero?
By Jake Snell strategic asset and land manager at Abri and part of the core team at Building Better