Vertical Wall Panels

The government’s commitment to investing in modern methods of construction (MMC) has recently been met with criticism due to lack of delivery against the proposed goals. This has led to an inquiry initiated by the House of Lords investigating what has gone wrong. The main findings surrounded the cost and durability of the modular building that was being encouraged, however the ability of non-specialised contractors to undertake these projects has also been brought to light.

The push for MMC building has been met with calls from social housing providers who are looking to use more local and traditional contractors to carry out these new projects. 

The issue has been highlighted by The Building Better Alliance, made up of local associations and councils who have found it is increasingly common that MMC manufacturers are only supplying their systems as opposed to also leading as the main contractor. In some cases this can act as a barrier to MMC being met in new social housing projects as the requirement for specialist knowledge can accrue additional cost and go against preferences to use local, trusted construction firms.

Trina Chakravarti, Director of Building Better said: “Increasingly, our members want a blend of different construction methods on their MMC projects. Traditional SME construction firms have a huge amount of expertise, and we’re keen to harness this through the framework. Using a collaborative approach means that manufacturers can concentrate on delivering their product, traditional firms can take control of the building process and we can offer housing associations and councils a wide range of construction solutions.”

The framework has been developed with the input of small and medium-sized building firms nationwide, and will cover housing projects, apartments, and extra care homes.

H+H Vertical Wall Panels (VWPs) are an ideal choice for the construction of social housing under this framework. Made of aircrete, VWPs are storey height with multiple applications such as forming the inner leaf of external walls, separating walls, and internal partitions. 

The panels form part of the i-House system supplied and built by specialist MMC firm Roofspace for those requiring a specialist service. However, the VWPs are also supplied as individual elements to contractors wishing to build themselves using their own workforce. Vertical Wall Panels represent an ideal bridge for using traditional materials in an MMC solution, requiring minimal training which H+H can provide, rather than specialist firms. 

An unmissable benefit of using VWPs is the speed of the build, the entire ground floor of a house can be installed in a single day. Craned into place onto standard foundations, the panels are installed using our fast-setting strong mortar that forms a 2mm airtight joint. The material is thermally efficient with a U-value of 0.17 W/m²K, as well as being fire and mould resistant. Made with a superior longevity to many materials being otherwise suggested for MMC use, H+H Vertical Wall Panels are built to last for over a hundred years.

Galion Ltd, a regional housebuilder, has found success using the VWPs in its recent project building five large, detached houses with expansive views over the Somerset countryside. The award-winning B Corp development company wanted a way to utilise traditional masonry but were looking for a speedier process without compromising on the end quality.

Tim Barnes, Managing Director of Galion Ltd was pleased with the results they were seeing in the reduction of time on the project, saying: “With the traditional method it was taking 8 to 12 weeks to get to the point where we could put the roof on a house. The joy of using H+H Vertical Wall Panels is that we can get the roof on in around 8 days – it’s a huge advantage for us.”

The company has been working with Acorn Innovation Build Ltd whose carpenters were trained by H+H to install the VWPs. The transition was reasonably seamless for them due to the similarity in the original and new methods: they already use a crane to install timber floor cassettes and roof joists, so their existing skills were easily transferable.

Matt Shuttleworth, Director of Acorn Innovation Build commented: “H+H Celcon Vertical Wall Panels is a new system for us but as a company we are always interested in different methods of construction. I have to say, so far we are very impressed with this one.”

Vertical Wall Panels have set the precedent for the delivery of an MMC solution by traditional construction firms, providing an excellent example for the new framework.