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Birmingham Council's first modular home unveiled

By Carl Jackson | Birmingham | News | Published:

Built in a warehouse around 20 miles away, craned into place in an hour and its new tenants ready to move in – this is Birmingham City Council’s first ever modular home.

The new modular home

The modern looking two-bedroom detached property was unveiled at Heaton Street in Hockley this morning and hailed as an ‘exciting chapter’ by council leader Ian Ward as the authority strives to meet demanding house-building targets over the next decade to serve a swelling population.

Inside has been kitted out with contemporary furniture courtesy of the Family Fund charity while it features all of the mod cons you would expect as well as an upstairs and downstairs bathroom while the master bedroom even boasts its own balcony.

“It’s nice, it’s a lot newer than the one I’m in and hopefully the bills will be a lot cheaper,” said 53-year-old John Nolan who officially moves in tomorrow with his 19-year-old son.

The modular home emerges from the Coventry-based factory. Photo: Creative Lines Photography

He is downsizing from a four-bedroom home in Aston and was chosen as the occupant out of more than 90 bidders for the pioneering scheme.

The council’s housing arm Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) stated that the ‘ModPod’ would complement its traditional housebuilding.

Arguably the most significant benefit is that they can been delivered on problematic brownfield sites – of which the city has more than 1,000 – which typically ramp up the development cost, do not accommodate affordable housing and often put off private developers.

BMHT already has council approval to build a further 54 units across six sites over the next 12 months, subject to planning consent.

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They aim to deliver double that in two years before conducting a review of the modular homes programme.

The covers are taken off the modular home with both units in place. Photo: Creative Lines Photography

Garage sites are one example touted as being the ideal type of plots to accommodate them.

The Heaton Street home has previously divided opinion among the council’s planning committee members, although the final version has been toned down significantly from the initial concept which was compared to a ‘battleship’ by one councillor.

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The pod comes in two units – the ground floor and first floor – both of which are essentially steel frames with the necessary insulated walls and customizable facades.

This particular one features a 4mm thick Acrylic brick finish on the bottom and a corrugated Aluminium exterior on the top.

It certainly stands out from its next door neighbour – perhaps intentionally given it is the high-profile prototype – but it undeniably makes for better viewing than the fly-tipped parcel of land it has been built on.

The council states that the pods can be ‘dressed’ to better match their surroundings, although reaction from neighbours in Heaton Street was said to be ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

Coventry-based Just Solutions has manufactured the property.

It took around 20 weeks to build but Andy Cornaby, director of business development, said that could be shortened to as little as two weeks on a live production line.

The ground preparation work was completed in six weeks, mainly due to a complication with an unknown water main, however that process too could also be shortened to a fortnight.

The units themselves took an hour to crane into place and a further hour for the utilities to be switched on.

“That was the main USP (unique selling proposition) we wanted to achieve, to deliver it one day and move in the same day,” said Mr Cornaby.

In terms of cost, the prototype was said to be equivalent to a traditional build, however the company hopes on a production line delivering up to 20-a-week the cost would be reduced by up to 40 per cent to around £100,000 each.

Just Solutions is also looking to deliver production warehouses in close proximity to the demand.

The company is already eyeing up sites in Birmingham, particularly at the forthcoming Longbridge Business Park being delivered on the former Rover works.

“We’re not going to be pushing them up and down the motorway costing a fortune in logistics, we are going to build them and employ local people providing a social value,” Mr Cornaby added.

Council leader Ian Ward was present for the unveiling and outlined that Birmingham needed a further 89,000 homes by 2031 with the population predicted to grow by 156,000 people.

“I’m not for one minute suggesting modular homes alone will help us meet that significant demand but here in Birmingham we are convinced this sort of construction has a part to play,” he said.

The leader added: “Meeting our housing demand is probably the single biggest challenge facing Birmingham over the next decade, and while ultimately we’ll be judged on the overall number of homes built, our success will be made up of individual stories like the one here today. ”

Carl Jackson

By Carl Jackson
@CarlJackson_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Birmingham City Council.

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