New homebuilding factories in Yorkshire herald change for industry

Yorkshire is at the forefront of a factory-built homes revolution. Sharon Dale reports.

The ground floor of a factory-built Ilke home being lifted onto Keepmoat's Dominion site in Doncaster.

The first properties off the production line at the Ilke Homes factory, near Knaresborough, are now open to view.

Delivered on a low loader, the “build” took just one day as the ground and first-floor components, fully fitted with bathrooms and kitchens, were craned on to pre-laid foundations.

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The two houses at Keepmoat’s Dominion development in Doncaster are indistinguishable from neighbouring, traditionally built homes on the site but they have been made and erected in less than half the time.

The first floor is craned into position at Keepmoat's Dominion site in Doncaster.

Ilke plans to make up to 2,000 of the modular properties a year and is one of three factories that have put Yorkshire at the forefront of a homebuilding revolution.

Over in Leeds, CITU is busy creating components for contemporary houses and apartments for its Climate Innovation District development on the edge of Leeds city centre. Its new factory, Citu Works, is making the timber frames, rooves, floors and insulated walls with rain-screen cladding and windows already fitted. Once on site, the shell can be erected in two days leaving an eight-strong assembly squad to fit out the interiors within 12 weeks. The first homes will be ready for occupation by July.

Insurance giant Legal & General has built a 550,000 sq. ft modular housing factory in Sherburn in Elmet and says: “We aim to do for housing what Henry Ford did for the modern automotive industry.”

It boasts of being the largest operation of its kind in the UK with the ability to produce 3,500 homes a year.

The two Ilke homes at the Dominion development.

A spokeswoman said: “Our pioneering technology will mean that each of our homes is manufactured to exacting quality standards, well beyond traditionally built housing. The modular home will arrive on site almost complete. Kitchens, bathrooms, doors, ironmongery, painting will be done and even carpets can all be fitted in the factory.”

Legal & General has unveiled two cross-laminated timber prototypes and is now in the pre-production phase, carrying out trials to test the process thoroughly before it moves into full-scale production.

While pre-fabricated homes have been around for years and are the norm in Germany and Scandinavia, it is only recently that volume builders in Britain have begun to embrace them.

There was previously little incentive as manufacturing off-site is no cheaper than traditional construction. It is the government’s push to build more homes faster, along with problems finding skilled tradespeople that have forced developers to look at change.

The first floor is craned into position at Keepmoat's Dominion site in Doncaster.

“Off-site construction isn’t less expensive. It costs about the same as a conventional build but it is quicker. Our homes take eight weeks to make in the factory, a day to install on site and a further two weeks finishing off and connecting to the utilities before they are ready for occupation.

“A traditional build takes 12 to 16 weeks to construct,” says James Thomson, CEO at Keepmoat, which devised the concept of Ilke Homes with Elliott, an off-site manufacturing specialist.

He adds: “They can be installed at a rate of six homes per site per day, meaning you could save as much as six months on a 50-home development.

“The government target is to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s and the industry would struggle to do that using traditional build. Modular homes will help produce additional volume.”

The two Ilke homes at the Dominion development.

Unlike many pre-fabricated homes, which are timber framed, Ilke’s are steel-framed, which make them sturdy and easier to transport

The range includes everything from two-storey terraced houses to semi-detached properties and blocks of flats of up to four storeys, all with flexible layouts and a selection of external finishes, from render and brick slip to timber and other cladding. The homes are approved by the National House Building Council and the Build Offsite Property Assurance Scheme and they are mortgageable.

Properties at the Dominion site are the same price as a traditionally-built home but, thanks to superior airtightness achieved by precision engineering and factory conditions, they cost 20 per cent less to heat.

Ilke, which is based in Flaxby, has created 150 new jobs and aims to grow the team to 800 members of staff over the next two to three years as production increases. It will initially supply Keepmoat and housing associations before rolling out its offer to others.

While some forecasters believe factory-built homes will eventually dominate the new-build sector, James Thomson disagrees.

“These are interesting times for our sector but I don’t think modular will replace traditional building. They will be suitable for some sites and not others. We are looking at using 10 to 20 per cent Ilke Homes on some of our developments and we are looking at a site where we may use 100 per cent modular.”

The two Ilke homes will be available to view for the next year at Keepmoat Homes’ Dominion site at Carr Lodge, Doncaster.

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