Housing London Marketplace

From the ongoing housing and climate crisis to Covid-19 emphasising the importance of our wellbeing and the spaces we live in, there have been mounting pressures placed on developers to build faster, and better, over recent months.

Technology is a core enabler of this, and during our recent virtual event DCW Group’s Managing Director, Dean Ward, unveiled their new approach to improving housing delivery – utilising data.

“Our brand-new software, DCW Insights, is a due diligence platform that can speed up that initial feasibility and land filtration step,” says Dean. Explaining the DCW Insights App, Dean detailed its innovative and automated project identification abilities. With a built-in due diligence checker and a comprehensive suite of wider management and information services, DCW Insights promises to transform project timescales and productivity.

In creating DCW Insights, the DCW Group has used API Data sets to take an empirical approach to development, something which Dean feels will facilitate our efforts to develop more quickly and to a higher standard. He explained how this data can be used to intelligently build homes that will be attractive for buyers: “For instance, we have key information on what sizes of properties have been selling; a problem we often run into is that developers build houses that are too big, with this tool more informed and successful decisions can be made.”

Many housing providers have been working on embracing technology and new innovative solutions to deliver future homes. One of those is Linc Cymru Housing Association, a group which develops 250 homes a year primarily across Wales. Exec Director Louise Attwood explained their approach: “We’ve got housing that’s funded through the Innovative Homes Fund – and we’re currently on site with about 40 passive houses.”

Modular housing and utilising Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) is widely touted as being important to ensuring that housing delivery is maximised in the future, but there is still a lot to be done to make it both viable and used as standard across the industry. Attwood said during our discussion that Linc Cymru Housing Association, among other organisations, is keen to promote this form of development: “We’re eager to push our modular housing accommodation to 30% of self-delivery.”

However, there are still obstacles to the upscaling of modular production from a financial perspective which Attwood highlighted: “Any more than that [30% of self-delivery] and our lenders and banks get a little bit twitchy.”

Supporting the age groups most affected by the housing crisis is also important, with Linc Cymru Housing Association “looking at delivering a lot of accommodation for 20-34-year-old’s as well as older people.”

In addition, Attwood described how providing later living facilities can free up larger former social homes for families.

Assisting the most vulnerable is also key to Linc Cymru Housing Association’s approach as they call for contractors to support them in converting former offices, pubs and other facilities into supportive housing for the homeless.

Meanwhile, Attwood described how quarantine’s emphasis on the need for green space has supported their efforts to embrace new design philosophies: “Having your own little outdoor space has never been more important, so we’re focusing on biophilic design.”

The firm have been demonstrating this at their City Road scheme in Cardiff, which is a scheme that uses cross laminated timber (CLT) and embraces biophilic design to be a “tree tower.”

Also utilising biophilic design are Pobl Group, who are embracing many innovations across the 600 homes they deliver every year in Wales. At their Picton Yard & Oxford Street scheme that has been dubbed an “urban farm”, they are providing green infrastructure and allotments within a scheme for 50 new integrated living flats.

They are also showing how new technologies can be implemented on a conversion at their Beacon View scheme, which they are hoping to find a new contractor for. Elfed Roberts, Head of Sustainability & Innovation at The Housing Developer, described how they are “converting an existing Edwardian building into a mixed tenure development.”

Pobl are also showing the ability to integrate green principles at the heart of their 144-low carbon home project Gwynfaen – where Roberts said they “employed a landscape architect way before we employed an architect.”

At their scheme at Loftus Garden Village, they employed a head gardener to design and maintain their green infrastructure.

Roberts summed up the new approaches being taken by developers as “building the right homes in the right places, but also the space in-between the homes as well.”

To build for volume and the future, the latest technology must be embraced and has to be in harmony with both residences and nature’s needs, as well as to fit in with the localised demands of the area. With tools like DCW Insights and committed industry experts leading the way for inspiring change, a greener and more fulfilling future for the property sector can be achieved.

From using low carbon materials to incorporating EV chargers and using modular technology to improve volume, incorporating nature both in and around buildings and more, there is a lot of exciting progress being made in the housing sphere.