Page 53 - Bridging & Commercial Magazine Issue 5
P. 53

One Day   down. I take cover inside one of the site’s shipping container offices. Kevin Bott, one of Project Etopia’s quantity surveyors, is sat crunching numbers on a laptop, getting a handle on the costs. He says that with the building techniques, processes and materials continually being streamlined, there is a potential to be quicker and have increased financial rewards when compared with conventional developments. “I should imagine \[modular homes are\] going to be 15–20% more profitable than \[traditional\] houses.” By the time construction is completed, the Corby commuter village will be more significant to Project Etopia than simply 47 modular houses to sell. The site is a pilot serving as a proof of concept to quantify the virtues of modular housing to investors, the government, housing associations and developers. “Now we have finished \[some houses\] we are expecting things to really take off moving forward,” Mark says. He explains that, at this stage, it won’t be allowing other developers to use its modular materials without oversight from Project Etopia. “What we don’t want is them to cherry pick certain elements of it, and then not deliver.” Even if Project Etopia is offering a turnkey option for developers, Mark claims that it is still difficult to secure mortgages for modular housing. “The only way you can persuade banks is for them to actually see houses being built, to see houses sold.” He predicts that, depending on the bank, it will be two to five years before the reliability and value of Project Etopia’s modular housing—compared with bricks and mortar builds—can be quantified. He notes that banks are risk adverse and wary of what is new and doesn’t have a track record of lasting for 50 to 60 years. For this reason, Project Etopia’s next projects will be with housing associations that have funding from the government. He says it is in talks with eight housing associations. I ask Mark what kind of opportunity the modular industry could present for specialist lenders. He cites the number of houses it is projected to build: some 1,000 homes next year, 5,000 the year after and 10,000 the year after that. Funding wise, Mark notes that the development finance money is going to have to come from somewhere. “There is a huge opportunity here to be investing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds into modern methods of construction \[and\] helping to solve the housing problem.” It seems that lenders who enter the space soon are likely to be the real winners, for both sustainable living and drawing in more business and funding opportunities.    Jake Ripley-Duggan, assistant site manager  51  Sept/Oct 2019 

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