Swedish firm to launch prefab system as Cooper calls on foreign builders to enter sector

Swedish contractor Skanska is planning to move into the UK housebuilding market in the same week that the government called for foreign firms to raise their game.

Europe’s third largest contractor has quietly been working up proposals over the past 18 months to launch a concrete prefabricated system known as ModernaHus. It is in talks with “a number of developers” over contracts.

David Fison, chief executive of Skanska UK, said: “We’re ready to rock ’n’ roll and will target the affordable housing market. God willing, this will become a significant part of our business.”

He added that the low-carbon ModernaHus system had been used on “half a dozen” sites in Sweden and would bring Swedish expertise, which is admired by Gordon Brown, to “help build eco-friendly communities here”.

The move is in addition to the 1,000 homes that Skanska’s Swedish arm hopes to build in the UK by 2009 through its BoKlok venture with Ikea and housing association Home Group.

The news comes as Yvette Cooper, the housing minister, used her first interview since being appointed to the Cabinet to call for more foreign companies to begin building homes in the UK (see box).

Cooper was speaking exclusively to Building after the launch last month of the housing green paper in which the government pledged to increase the rate of housebuilding in England by 20% to 240,000 by 2020.

She said: “I think that would promote greater competition – we would like to see more entry into housebuilding and development.

“If we can learn from the techniques and capabilities used by companies working abroad and in other parts of Europe where they are currently ahead of us on environmental standards it will be good for housing in this country as well.”

Cooper did not name any firms that she would like to see competing in the British market.