RHP Group own or manage around 10,000 homes across West London. Their aim is to build 1,500 more over the next ten years, with many of these being delivered using modern methods of construction. We spoke to Avril Roberts, RHP’s development project manager about how they are delivering through the Building Better framework.
What are your development targets?
By 2030, we aim to build at least 50% of our entire development programme using MMC.
What type of MMC homes are you developing?
RHP builds affordable housing, predominantly for rent, some for shared ownership. We don’t develop market housing. So it’s really important to get the type of MMC home right.
What’s it been like to use the framework?
Very easy – no matter what stage of development. For example, two of our MMC sites already had planning applications submitted with detailed designs. People thought it would cost a lot of money – and time – for the MMC manufacturer to amend the design to fit their models but this hasn’t been the case. In fact, it’s been easy because the Building Better framework encourages a collaborative process.
Conversations with manufacturers have been really organic. We told them about the sites in planning and asked them to take a look. They did site visits and became part of the project team along with our architects. Manufacturers looked at the architect’s design and they are now working up what changes, if any, need to be made for delivery.
That wouldn’t have been possible without the Building Better framework. It allows this early engagement with the market where you can actually use their design experience to shape schemes.
How has Building Better helped with the procurement process?
Using the framework means we could directly engage with manufacturers, right from the beginning, in a procurement compliant way. They walk with you through the process. The ability to overcome the procurement headache is the biggest single benefit of the framework. It’s been a game changer for RHP.
What costs have you had back?
It’s been easy to get top level costs. Comparable MMC products, being net zero carbon and of a good specification, have come in slightly under the cost of traditional, and we’ll also see savings from a shorter build programme. This will allow us to invest in making our MMC homes future proof and putting in more technology.
What about the uplift to net zero?
Manufacturers said it would be easy – there wouldn’t be many adjustments. They’ve seen the direction of travel and built their businesses around delivering zero carbon homes. Their design process, factories and supply chains are all set up that way.
We’ve had costs back for delivering net zero embodied carbon homes on one of our sites and it’s an extra £3,000 – £5,000 per apartment – which is very good value for West London. In other parts of the country, traditional contractors are charging so much for an uplift to net zero that it’s sometimes cheaper to build to base and then retrofit.
What other benefits have you seen?
Less disruption is a big thing for us. We don’t have any big brown or greenfield sites and when we use our own land, which are usually smaller sites, you can have neighbours living less than one metre away. Keeping that relationship with existing customers is key. Using the Building Better framework means we’re able to push things through fast. We can tell customers, yes, you’ll be living next to a building site, but we’ll deliver these new homes over months, not years.
What schemes are you developing through the framework?
We’re using the Building Better framework to procure MMC homes for two schemes, both in planning. One is in Teddington, and another is in Barnes.
What are the costs?
Based on a clean site of between 40-60 apartments in West London, with standard footings: approx. £3,000 – £3,250 per square metre
What’s the price uplift to net zero?
£3,000 – £5,000 per apartment