Anglo-Dutch firm Ballast Wiltshier, QS MacConvilles and property consultant King Sturge have launched Euro Housing, which will specialise in tunnel-form construction. They claim that the technique can reduce the construction cost of residential schemes by 30%.
King Sturge partner Nigel Bennett said the joint venture was confident that the method would take off in the UK because it cuts down on construction time and is therefore cheaper.
He said: “The Dutch took on the problem of concrete housing and solved it. We believe that the climate is right for this sort of product. It is built quicker so the financing time is less and the overall scheme’s cost is less.”
The joint venture is already in talks with a private developer and a large housing association but Bennett declined to name the companies. Bennett hopes to have the first project on site early next year.
He added: “We don’t know how many units we will build a year. It will be demand-led. We have seen signs that people are prepared to overcome their negative perceptions of concrete housing.”
The prefabrication system is based around the creation of concrete tunnels, each forming the frame for a storey. The external frame is then bolted on to the front and back ends of each tunnel.
The House Builders’ Federation welcomed the use of prefabrication, but warned that the results would need to be carefully measured.
The climate is right for this sort of product. It is built quicker so the scheme’s cost is less
A spokesperson said: “It is certainly something that our members would be looking at, but the costs and speed advantages would need assessment.
“Prefabrication is obviously of interest in these times of trade skills shortages.”
The system can also be used for shops and commercial spaces at ground level, making it suitable for the mixed-use developments recommended by Lord Rogers’ urban taskforce.
King Sturge’s Bennett also pointed out that the recent housing green paper Quality and Choice: A Decent Home for All states that the government supports the use of new housing systems to improve the speed and quality of construction.
Ballast Wiltshier’s Dutch parent company, Ballast Nedam, has used this form of construction in The Netherlands for 25 years.
In a separate scheme, the tunnel-form system is being piloted on a local authority housing development in Hackney, east London.