At Legal & General we’re aiming to disrupt the UK’s housing market by building modular homes to counter some of today’s pressing issues. First is the UK’s chronic housing crisis, with millions of people struggling to find affordable homes because house prices have outpaced wages. Second, our built environment has a vast carbon footprint – and modular homes can contribute to lowering the environmental impact of our buildings at a time when we have just a decade left to prevent catastrophic climate change.
We have spent the past three years refining our process – developing, testing and accrediting – at our 550,000 square foot Legal & General Modular Homes factory in Sherburn-in-Elmet, north Yorkshire. When it reaches full capacity, the factory will be able to produce 3,000 homes per year, with its range featuring two- and three-bedroom houses and apartments.
Building modular homes is one of L&G’s latest steps in its programme to invest in levelling up across the UK. As a business L&G as invested £30bn so far and we aspire to do the same again. Our Modular homes business forms part of Legal & General’s wider ambition to become one of the UK’s leading housebuilders across all forms of construction, price points and tenures. These will be across various categories, including build-to-sell, build-to-rent, social housing and later life living.
The importance of delivering affordable, carbon-friendly homes, set within green open spaces and at the heart of a well-connected local community has moved to the top of the agenda
What makes modular homes different is the fact that they are built entirely in factories before being transported to their final destination. Precision engineering, inspired by techniques from the automotive and construction industries, is employed, while the digitally enabled design and manufacturing process will allow us to deliver rapidly – and ramp up as the market expands.
Another defining feature is the vastly lower environmental impact of these properties. Our modular homes already achieve Energy Performance Certificate Standard A, which is currently only attained by around 1% of new homes. A range of design features and technologies are at the crux of this, including heat pumps and photovoltaic cells. Moreover, these homes employ sustainably sourced materials, while the landscaping of the developments is sensitively designed in order to enhance biodiversity. As a next step, we will deliver our first net-zero regulated operational carbon scheme in the near future.
As well as the homes themselves being green, the manufacturing process is more efficient. Precision engineering and lean manufacturing techniques, as well as the quality assurance process, mean that this approach requires fewer materials and results in far less waste. Another consequence is decreasing the time spent on site when compared with traditional construction – in turn reducing emissions from transport. What’s more, with less noise, disruption and mess, it also benefits local residents.
Our modular homes have another social benefit: providing skilled employment. Having already recruited over 100 mostly local people this year, Legal & General Modular Homes now employs over 400 staff and is aiming to expand its team by 300 over the next 12 months. With the current factory pipeline standing at 750 homes, it will require all kinds of skillsets. It is looking to fill a number of positions in design, finance, engineering, procurement, commercial, marketing, construction, health and safety, quality, human resources and administration and production.
We are also committed to training and upskilling staff. The Modular Academy, founded in 2018 in conjunction with Selby College, offers employees the chance to take their career up a notch. It offers a structured training programme aligned to a National Vocational Qualification, meaning that staff are trained to a standard backed by specifications from a high-quality awarding body. Since the academy’s founding, 84 employees have completed this Modular Mastery programme. We are also bringing new talent into the industry with its apprentice scheme. So far eight apprentices have been recruited to work across a range of disciplines, including manufacturing engineering, maintenance and construction. An additional four will be brought on board this year to assist with the upcoming pipeline.
With homes set to be built across Selby, Broadstairs and North Horsham, among other locations, this businesses pipeline is growing rapidly. And as more modular homes are built, their benefits can be further demonstrated – building even more momentum for what is set to become a £40 billion industry.
As Rosie Toogood, CEO of Legal & General Modular Homes says: “In a post-pandemic environment, the importance of delivering affordable, carbon-friendly homes, set within green open spaces and at the heart of a well-connected local community has moved to the top of the agenda. Through modular construction, Legal & General is able to deliver all of this and in half the time of traditional methods.”