Region aims to pioneer modern methods of construction to boost economic recovery

Steve Rotheram

Liverpool City Region has launched a programme that could make it a national centre of excellence for modern methods of construction for housing and related infrastructure.

The programme will develop cutting edge technology to retrofit existing homes and build new homes with new, state-of-the-art, methods of construction.

It is being developed in a collaboration between the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Construction Innovation Hub, Peel Land and Property, Torus Group, Housing Associations, and industry partners.

The programme will aim to retrofit 10,000 homes over the next 10 years, bringing them up to at least the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ‘C’ rating for energy efficiency, as part of a post-COVID recovery stimulus package, while developing and upskilling the workforce by applying new methods and systems of refurbishments and construction.

Under the new build element of the programme, the MTC and LCR stakeholders have aggregated an initial pipeline of more than 6,500 homes to be built over 10 years.

At the same time, it will support the development and success of the modular, digitised manufacturing sector in the LCR, increasing productivity, ensuring a strong supply of employment opportunities across the supply chain, and supported by an apprenticeship programme.

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the first phase of the LCR National Centre of Excellence in Modern Methods of Construction for Homes project, one of the key projects in the city region’s £9bn ‘Building Back Better’ economic recovery plan, launched in August.

The programme will focus on an initial pilot using a sample of Torus properties, which will provide insight and intelligence to inform a larger programme. Torus is a social purpose regeneration and housing group, the largest in the North West, where all profits are reinvested to build stronger communities.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, said: “Even in difficult times, our region is constantly looking for better ways of doing things.

“The Modern Methods of Construction project has the potential to be an industry leader in new and innovative ways of getting houses built and, I hope, help to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.

“This also has the potential to radically improve energy efficiency across the region through a comprehensive retrofitting scheme, which should not only address energy poverty in some of our poorest communities, but help us save the planet, too.

“Whilst we fight for existing jobs, especially in the hospitality sector, it is vital that we focus on pushing forwards in developing new sectors and skills that will bring us thousands of new jobs post-COVID-19.”

He added: “The past few months have been exceptionally difficult, but I am determined that our region will Build Back Better from them. I’ll be doing all I can to make our region greener, fairer and more resilient than before.”

The Modern Methods of Construction programme will develop specialist technologies which aim to achieve significant reductions on initial and life cycle costs, halve delivery times, and realise the following benefits:

Carbon Reductions – the work will contribute to reducing carbon emissions in all those properties retrofitted, providing a first stage to retrofit for the remaining homes not reaching the standard in the city region in line with carbon targets.

Reduction in Fuel Poverty – many of the homes targeted will contain households who are in fuel poverty and the work will reduce energy bills. The Liverpool City Region has a high incidence of fuel poverty compared with the national average (14% in LCR above the national average of 10%).

Health Benefits – linked to the reduction in fuel poverty, residents will also be able to adequately heat their homes leading to a reduction in poor health impacts, especially those with existing health conditions such as asthma, COPD and other respiratory illnesses.

Shared and Assisted Living – there is currently a lack of diversified housing stock to meet the needs of younger generations, the ageing population and social minority groups. Affordable housing alone cannot fulfil this need. Modular housing allows for the creation of contemporary shared living models. This can offer a solution to the challenges facing society such as unaffordable rent, loneliness and isolation, and the mobility requirements of an ageing population.

Increased Skills & Employment – the work will provide new and increased jobs in many trade skills with a wide range of levels of learning opportunities. Housing retrofit is one of the best generators of jobs for expenditure with an estimated 30 jobs per £1.3m spend. For every £1m spend there will be at least one new apprenticeship created as part of the contracts as well as other learning opportunities at schools, colleges and local SMEs.

Process Innovation – in partnership with the MTC, and in line with an ambition to become the National Centre of Excellence of Modern Methods of Construction, the programme will be deployed using cutting-edge methodologies, reducing unitary costs and increasing quality, while developing new trade skills for the supply base.

Innovation – several companies in the city region and the North West have already created new technologies such as infrared radiators which can be tested at scale in real life situations to demonstrate their effectiveness for more widespread usage. Further innovations will be developed and tested with the MTC partnership to further reduce costs and innovate in retrofit housing. Industrial and academic partners will also be involved in ensuring innovation is incorporated into the programme and its delivery.