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Abri, a large housing provider, is driven by its purpose to support the creation of more and higher-quality affordable homes to contribute to solving the housing crisis. 

With more than 50,000 homes and community assets Abri is currently delivering approximately 1,000 homes annually and is on target to deliver 10,000 homes by 2030, ensuring affordable housing is built where it’s needed most. To help achieve this goal Abri has been exploring MMC solutions to speed up the housebuilding process and has chosen to build with H+H Vertical Wall Panels on its latest development. Its in-house construction team will deliver 109 affordable homes at Sherecroft Farm, Botley in Hampshire.

The first phase of the development is being built with traditional brick and block using H+H Celcon Blocks. The second phase of 66 homes will be constructed using the i-House system, a Category 2 MMC solution that relies on H+H Vertical Wall Panels to deliver the shell of a house in just five days.

The i-House system supplied by Roofspace Solutions combines H+H Vertical Wall Panels, which are storey-height aircrete panels, with insulation, floor cassettes, roof trusses, soffits and facias. 

As a strategic partner of Homes England, Abri is committed to delivering 25% of its homes using MMC Categories 1 or 2. Jake Snell, Head of Partnerships & Innovation at Abri, explains: "From the beginning of our MMC journey, it was evident there was a strong appetite within the organisation to innovate. However, we recognised the need to proceed incrementally to ensure the whole team was on board. We investigated various MMC products to find the best fit for Abri. When we were introduced to H+H and its Vertical Wall Panel system, we realised it was a game changer.

"Adopting a new build method is a major cultural shift for both our on-site teams and our back office. The Vertical Wall Panel system is an ideal solution as it comprises a familiar material in a more advanced product. It lets us adapt our culture rather than creating a new one and the i-House system significantly reduces the level of risk compared with innovation used in other construction techniques."

Jake visited a Galion Ltd site in Somerset to see H+H Vertical Wall Panels being installed for himself. He spoke to the carpenter installing the panels who was enthusiastic about the system and on witnessing how quickly the walls went up, Jake was impressed. 

He comments: “We anticipate that using the i-House system will enable us to reduce the build programme by three to six months. We’ll be able to start the interior fit out much sooner and will have less reliance on wet trades which should remove many of the challenges posed by wet weather. It makes sense.” 

Another tick in the box for the H+H Vertical Wall Panel system is its sustainability credentials. The excellent thermal properties of aircrete will ensure a thermally efficient building fabric for the homes on the Botley site, easily meeting building regulations.

The houses will be equipped with air source heat pumps, photovoltaics, and EV chargers. Additionally, several units will be fitted with battery storage as part of a trial, allowing them to be net zero in operation rather than just 'net zero ready', a key aspect of the Future Homes Standard.

Jake comments: “As an organisation we know that we need to innovate and use different build methods to meet our net zero carbon targets. H+H Vertical Wall Panels are significantly better than standard brick and block, not only because they generate less waste but because the product itself has better sustainability credentials, supporting us on our sustainability journey.”

The Botley site will feature a variety of two-storey house types. Here, H+H Vertical Wall Panels offer a significant advantage over less versatile systems as they can be adapted to any design. This is beneficial for housebuilders acquiring land with existing planning permission as the system’s flexibility allows the construction of approved house designs without needing to revise the planning application to accommodate the build method.

Phase 2 of Sherecroft Farm, Botley is scheduled to start in autumn 2024 and the Abri team is looking forward to working with Vertical Wall Panels and the i-House system.

Jake concludes: “We want to prove the system and feel comfortable with it and then we’ll look at rolling it out more widely. I’ve got a really good feeling that H+H Vertical Wall Panels will be a mainstay for Abri on low rise housing.”