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Reconstruction

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Dinosaur Developers have had their day…It’s time to reach for the Moon

By Affordable Housing, Construction Technologies, Housing policy, Modular Construction, Reconstruction

Don’t let them fool you…Kennedy never wanted just to land a man on the Moon and bring him safely back home: his real challenge to Congress, his real purpose, was to land a man on the Moon before the decade was out. And eight years later NASA did just that: by the skin of their teeth perhaps, with two men, not one, tragedy and setbacks along the way and just five short months to spare, but they still did it. And Kennedy’s 1961 speech to Congress has since become a cornerstone of every Business School syllabus from Wharton to Wolverhampton (yes it does have one, look it up), principally because it sums up the essence of all successful project planning: you’ve got to have a big, clear objective but you also need a bold, clear timeline to achieve it. There’s no point thinking big and bold if your clock has no hands: something Boris might care to pay attention to as he struggles with his own COVID Moonshot challenge.

And in essence, back on the ground, that’s the essential dilemma of modern construction: there’s nothing inherently wrong with building knee-deep in mud, with bricks and girders scattered randomly across a field, and the building will probably come out fine in the end, but its way too slow. And the fact is all those dinosaur developers, lumbering around in the mud with the urgency of teenage sweethearts trying to get off the phone, the clock has simply lost its hands. So does any of that matter? Well, yes it does…it matters a lot because the moon we’re all reaching for now is a lot closer to earth.

In the UK, for example, COVID’s ravages created an urgent demand for new hospitals: eight of them in just ten weeks and mud rooted developers would have taken an average of three years to build one. But all were completed on time (in fact ahead of time in some cases), using modular technologies. Shelter reported in December last year that more than 320,000 people were homeless in the UK, sleeping on streets and sofas: that’s a shocking one in 200 of the population, and the National Housing Federation reported this week that 4 million people are living in overcrowded accommodation in the UK: 90,000 affordable homes need to be built every year for the next decade to meet the resulting need. But at the same time, dinosaur developers have been building new social housing at the lowest rate for decades, only a little over 5,000 a year. 

So if ever there was a Moonshot moment, a time to set Kennedy-esque challenges with bold targets and timelines, this is it…we can’t afford the luxury of limitless time any longer, and those dinosaur developers simply aren’t up to the job.

That’s precisely why, according to this years Bradley SmartMarket Report, 90% of Property Developers are now committed to adopting Modular Technologies as part of their project platform, offering radically improved quality and delivery times as well as lower cost and wastage levels. In headline terms, this means on average that a Modular property will be built three times faster than its bricks and mud counterpart and at half the cost. It gives us cause for hope that those big, bold challenges (the challenge of building 90,000 new homes a year) can actually be met.

And as for the remaining 10% of Dinosaur Developers…well, it seems they’ve run out of time.

Find out more about Modulex

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Modulex is the World’s largest Steel Modular Building Company. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the full potential of fast-evolving technologies and deliver at a pace to meet the evolving needs of the community

Executive Overview

We’re facing an acute and unprecedented shortage of affordable housing across the globe and, like many of us I expect, I just don’t believe conventional construction technologies are capable of rising to the challenge. 

I’m convinced Modular Construction will be important for all our futures: delivering at pace, working off a low-cost platform and incorporating levels of quality conventional methods simply can’t match.

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Living Nowhere… Building on the Lessons of Affordable Housing

By Affordable Housing, Construction Technologies, Housing policy, Modular Construction, Reconstruction

Barely a year after it ended, Germany had built 350,000 new homes out of the ashes and devastation of the Second World War, and in 1951 a young (ish) Harold Macmillan promised that, if elected, the Conservatives would build 300,000 houses a year in the UK: and the Conservatives were duly elected, predictably falling short of their target but still building no less than 200,000 new homes before the year was out. Falling short maybe, but dwarfing the paltry 6,287 affordable homes built in the UK last year, and especially so when you take into account that over the same period 23,740 affordable homes were either sold or demolished in Britain.

Just stop and think about that a moment…

In war-ravaged Germany builders achieved 48 completions an hour, while in war-winning but hardly less ravaged Britain, and despite rationing restrictions and the worst winter for years (not to mention broken election promises), contractors were still managing to build 548 new, affordable homes every day. But today, the United Kingdom, the fifth-biggest economy in the world, is struggling to build 12 new affordable homes a month. And in the United States the position is even worse: Reagan and Clinton era policies mean Public Housing is created only when it is needed to replace existing stock, which more or less means nothing is built at all. So at the moment, nobody in the United States working 40 hours a week and earning minimum wage can afford to move into a standard two-bedroom apartment. They’re literally living nowhere…

So what went wrong?

Well, as so often history offers a clue. Back in 1950’s Britain Laing had invented a new way of building houses called Easiform: pouring concrete into prefabricated frames on-site and pebble dashing the unit later, enabling them to build 1000 new houses a month in Plymouth alone (despite the severe winter conditions). George Wimpey had devised a popular “no-fines” construction method, setting coarse concrete into house-shaped moulds and establishing a precedent for what is still the most ubiquitous building format in the United Kingdom. But with the subsequent decline in funding for public housing programmes from the 1970s onwards, this thirst for innovation seems to have declined too, markedly reducing delivery rates.

And of course, perhaps inevitably, COVID has a part to play in all this as well: according to a recent OECD study (“Tackling the Coronavirus: Housing Policy and Public Sector Strategy”), the pandemic has markedly destabilised real estate sectors across the globe and affordable housing in particular. Based on a newly created analogue of the Purchasing Manager’s Index (or PMI), a key indicator of consumer confidence levels, the Report found a slump in confidence directly attributable to lockdown measures and went on to forecast a severe time lag before construction levels get back to anything close to pre-pandemic levels. And despite the fact most Governments across the Planet have since introduced policies to protect vulnerable housing groups, including suspension of eviction procedures and a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments, none of these policies will help get more homes built: in fact, they may disincentivise developers from building affordable housing. In the current climate, instead of creating new homes for those in need, contractors may (and probably will) prefer to build yet another glass tower block where Russian oligarchs can snap up  apartments by the dozen and leave them unoccupied until markets rise again.

That’s why the OECD recommends an expansion of capital spending on affordable housing, improving near term affordability and long term supply as well as accelerating the spread of new and improved building technologies such as modular construction: technologies that are capable of speeding up delivery rates when they’re most needed, better aligned to environmental transition and sustainability objectives: in short, technologies that are the direct descendants of Laing’s Easiform moulds back in the 1950s. 

Well, after all, the technological change worked then…why not now.

Find out more about Modulex

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Modulex-Logo-300x77.jpg

Modulex is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the full potential of these fast-evolving technologies and deliver at a pace to meet the evolving needs of the community.

Executive Overview

Sadly, we’re facing acute and unprecedented shortages of affordable housing stock across the globe, and it’s proving to be a real shock to existing supply chains. Like many of us, I just don’t believe conventional construction technologies are capable of rising to the challenge this requires: with the pace, volume and quality it demands.

That’s why I’m confident Modular Construction is so important for all our futures: delivering at pace, working off a low-cost platform and incorporating levels of quality assurance that conventional technologies simply can’t match.

Red Ribbon

At Red Ribbon we understand that the transition towards a resilient global economy will be led by well-governed businesses in mainstream markets, striving to reduce the environmental impact of their production processes on society at large and on the environment as well.

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