Work has started at a revolutionary new ‘modular house’ factory to produce low-energy homes with running costs of just £200 a year.
The facility, on Holyhead’s Penrhos Industrial Estate, has made the timber frame for a new bungalow in less than three days and already has orders for more than 40 houses.
It’s been launched by Creating Enterprise, the property and training organisation founded as a subsidiary by leading housing association Cartrefi Conwy.
The venture is believed to be the first of its kind by a social enterprise in Wales and has created four new jobs, with more in the pipeline as the operation grows.
One of the benefits is that the houses can be erected within 10 days once on site.
They already have contracts to provide homes for Anglesey County Council, Cartrefi Conwy and Conwy County Borough Council and there is “considerable interest” from other local authorities and housing associations across North Wales and the North West.
Creating Enterprise, based at the Cartrefi Conwy Business Park, in Mochdre, near Colwyn Bay, was established in 2015.
The social enterprise, the first of its kind in Wales, also runs an Employment Academy to provide opportunities, training and qualifications for unemployed local people, including Cartrefi Conwy tenants.
They have now partnered with Norfolk-based Beattie Passive, the UK’s leading manufacturer of advanced passivhaus homes, low-energy buildings, which can save residents up to 90% in annual energy costs.
Adrian Johnson, Managing Director of Commercial Services at Cartrefi Conwy, said: “As part of our commitment to build more affordable homes across North Wales, we truly believe we have identified a great partner in Beattie Passive.
“Our aim, as a social enterprise, is not just to build the homes but also to use the profits generated to give unemployed people from across North Wales the opportunity to gain workplace experience, training and qualifications.
“We estimate that we can build conventional three-bedroom homes within 10 days, ready for roofing and finishing.”
The Creating Enterprise passivhaus buildings will use high performance insulation to make the homes completely draught free, cutting heat loss to create a home with minimal environmental impact.
A small combi boiler will power just one or two radiators, enough to heat the property to 22C and provide hot water with estimated annual energy costs of £200, compared to an average for a three-bedroom house of £1200 to £1400.
The Penrhos factory has a staff of four qualified joiners including Carl Griffiths, from Llandudno Junction, who said: “We went on a course with Beattie Passive last year and we have started training unemployed volunteers from the Holyhead area already. In the first year we expect to give work opportunities to 50 individuals.
“It’s a very quick and efficient system. We can put the frame of a house up in two days – it’s the future of building.
“The timber frame can be clad in any material you like and then internally there is plasterboard and an airtight membrane which seals the house so there is little or no heat loss.”
According to Cartrefi Conwy Chief Executive Andrew Bowden, the initiative is part of their £40 million strategy to create 250 new homes by 2020.
He said: “I see it as a win-win for our sector. As a social enterprise we have to make a profit but that is then recycled into a social good which is bringing tenants back into employment.
“Housing associations can buy into that because we are producing a quality product and then we are using our own unemployed tenants to help build it.
“The factory in Holyhead I see as our manufacturing mothership and if we were to win a big contract elsewhere in North Wales then we could very quickly put up a ‘satellite factory’ on site to manufacture the frames.”
Creating Enterprise has also been supported in Holyhead by the Coastal Communities Fund, which has provided £175,000 of funding towards equipping the Penrhos factory.
Mr Johnson added: “Modular building is a relatively new and innovative concept for housing associations and developers and many are purchasing these buildings off the shelf, but we thought why not do something different and use our own unskilled labour.
“We chose Beattie Passive to partner with because their ethos of using unskilled labour to build a high quality product with a very low carbon footprint is something we share.
“At present we estimate that we can build a house for a price comparable to a conventional build but as we get quicker and the order book increases costs will reduce accordingly.”
Ron Beattie, Managing Director of Beattie Passive, said: “We are very pleased to be partnering with Cartrefi Conwy and Creating Enterprise to deliver Beattie Passive homes in North Wales. We believe they exemplify the values and goals of Beattie Passive and look forward to building upon our partnership.”