Delivering Swedish Style and Sustainability

Although BoKlok may be an unfamiliar brand name in the UK, its joint owners Skanska and IKEA are familiar faces to most of us. As Graeme Culliton, BoKlok Managing Director and Country Manager told us, things are about to change.

BoKlok has huge experience in developing and manufacturing homes in the Nordic region and to date has developed around 12,000 homes in Sweden, Finland and Norway. The homebuilding joint venture sees homes built primarily from timber, using a smart, industrialised factory process. The homes are completed offsite in a safe and dry precision environment enabling high-quality and predictable costs.

It is now aiming to set new customer satisfaction standards in the UK market. What drew it to the UK and what can Swedish expertise deliver to the UK housing market? “Simply put the need for low cost home ownership in the UK and the opportunity to make a difference,” says Graeme. “We have been delivering this model in the Nordics for 20 years. Our experience in delivering modular homes is derived from the fact we own our own factory but also manufacture homes with manufacturing partners. The need for modern methods of construction (MMC) and the support from central and local government was also key to knowing this was the right time for this.”

How does Skanska and IKEA work together to create this housing model and the wide and potentially endless customer interior requirements? “IKEA understand how people live, great design and industrialisation,” says Graeme. “Skanska understand construction, logistics and development. Together a powerful combination. Both organisations have high ambitions and achievements in sustainability. Together all this drives the way we think about our customer, the homes we design but also delivering a low cost home. All our homes have an IKEA kitchen as standard, but customers can also work on their own interior design with IKEA, if they choose. This is part of our sales process.”

The system is a volumetric timber system involved with most of the timber sourced from Sweden and Finland. BoKlok has worked closely with NHBC and BOPAS (Building Offsite Property Assurance Scheme) to ensure compliance with UK regulations and requirements. A panellised system was never considered. “It’s what we know and we know it works,” says Graeme.

To help deliver part of its first product offering in the UK, BoKlok has appointed technology-driven modular housing manufacturer TopHat on a five-year contract. This will see TopHat work with BoKlok to manufacture two and three-bedroom houses.

“We are delighted to be working with TopHat, says Graeme. “We share the same ambition to bring innovation and sustainability to the UK housing market, which means attractive and good quality homes for people on average incomes. Our two companies complement one another well, with TopHat bringing its high levels of automated manufacturing expertise. As we venture into the UK, we believe that TopHat will contribute to our long-term vision and success, to provide quality, low-cost homes, using sustainable materials and modern methods of construction.”

TopHat is a technology-driven modular housing manufacturer, aiming to revolutionise the digital construction industry, from housebuilding to commercial property. Founded in 2016 and commencing production in early 2018 at its state-of-the art manufacturing facility in South Derbyshire, this offers a huge opportunity to boost the profile of volumetric timber homes. “We wanted a UK supplier and because timber is at the heart of our business, as the most sustainable building product, they were at the top of the list. Once we engaged with TopHat we could see that they shared our values and had invested significantly in their manufacturing facility. It was the most advanced that we saw in the UK by some way. We also met with their investors and could see a commitment for the long term.”

“Modular housebuilding will be central to addressing the UK’s housing crisis by providing modern, desirable and connected housing far more quickly than traditional methods,” says Kate Davies, Non-Executive Director of TopHat. “TopHat is in a strong position to lead the sector. Not only does its technology and manufacturing platform enable TopHat to produce homes of outstanding quality at low cost, but also its approach to design reshapes perceptions of what modular homes look like and feel like to live in.”

The first BoKlok community will be in Bristol at Airport Road. Bristol City Council, who owns the site, has committed to pursuing the development of this partnership with BoKlok as part of the five-year Bristol Housing Festival which is trialling innovative offsite housing solutions across the city. Jez Sweetland, Bristol Housing Festival’s Project Director, said: “The festival is all about reimagining new and better ways to live in our cities. BoKlok provide creative solutions with a fantastic track record of creating great homes and strong communities, we are really thrilled to be working with them.”

The proposed development will consist of 173 homes – 77 two-storey houses and 96 flats built under the BoKlok brand. “BoKlok have been working with Bristol Council and the Housing Festival for the past two years, says Graeme. “They are fantastic partners to work with and we share the vision for the city in providing great sustainable homes for people that really need it. This made our decision to focus within the South West a very easy one, when we planned the launch of the business. We expect to start work at Airport Rd in Bristol by the end of the year. First sales will be in Spring/Summer of 2021. We now have six sites across the south of the UK in various stages of development.

“Broadly our homes will be delivered in half the time of traditional forms of construction. Our ambition is to bring zero carbon homes to UK a lot quicker than 30 years. Our building system and design makes a big step toward zero carbon, but we will move our focus to this once we have delivered our first developments and timber is an essential part of achieving our carbon targets.”

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