Essex housebuilder looks to produce 4,000 light-gauge steel frame homes a year at facility from June

Essex-based housebuilder Weston Homes has taken possession of a £40m MMC factory which it plans to supply itself and other developers with up to 4,000 steel-frame homes per year.

Weston chairman and CEO Bob Weston told Building’s sister title Housing Today that the production line in his new British Offsite factory will start to be installed this month with the ambition for the facility to be fully operational by June this year.

The £240m-turnover housebuilder, which builds predominantly mid-rise apartment schemes, has been supplying its own developments from its existing MMC factory in Braintree since 2019 - which has delivered bathroom pods and a suite of lightweight steel external panel systems which can be fitted within concrete frame structures.


Bob Weston said it aims to make 4,000 steel-frame homes a year

Weston’s new 180,000 sq ft factory in the Horizon 120 Business Park in nearby Great Notley is to take over production of panel systems, which it calls the UniPanel, UniWall and UniHouse MMC systems, expanding capacity five-fold to up to 4,000 homes per annum.

Bob Weston said the firm had spent £6.5m employing Swedish automation expert Randek to bring in robotic technology at assembly points, meaning that the expansion in production capacity will come with just a 15% increase in workforce.

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The housebuilder, which started work on the new factory a year ago, said the two factories together, set up as an independent trading company called British Offsite, represented an investment of £40m by Weston Group.

Bob Weston said he was confident launching the factory despite the recent downturn, with orders about to be signed from external customers for the steel frame homes. “The reason behind rebranding it as British Offsite is that as a business we’re now going to sell those products in the industry as a whole, not just to Weston Homes,” he said.

“We’re talking to some leading players on the verge of signing some orders to start delivering come June.”

Weston last week reported pre-tax profit of £18.2m for the year to July 2022, up six fold, on 784 completions. Weston said he believed that strong underlying demand for housing would start to reassert itself in the market by the spring, despite the rise in mortgage costs hitting demand from first time buyers at the end of last year.