Birmingham is already the second largest city in the UK, and with the population expected to grow by 150,000 by 2031, the need to solve the growing housing crisis has become ever more pressing. We have been working with Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), the housing arm set up by Birmingham City Council, to help solve the problem. One of the challenges facing BMHT was that local areas were suffering from high crime rates, fuel poverty and old housing stock, and so neighborhoods needed to be rebuilt and re-energized to create a new sense of place. But this needed to be about more than just building blocks; we needed to help communities come together for a better future.
To help BMHT tackle the housing crisis in Birmingham, we provided an integrated solution for building new homes. This meant we managed all the different elements required to build new housing, from Employer’s Agent through to Principal Designer, to ensure a consistent, high quality approach.
As part of the goal to create a better quality of life for local communities, it was important that we brought in environmentally friendly homes that reduced harm to the environment. We did this by managing Birmingham’s first ever ‘Mod pods’, which were prefabricated modular units, made off-site in a local factory within a 15-mile radius. There are many great benefits to modular developments, one being – speed. We had modules arrive on site on Monday and a resident moving in by the Friday. The second advantage is that by using this form of construction we were able to reduce waste by 90%, cutting CO2 emissions by 70% in the production process.
Another sustainable technique Arcadis brought to the BMHT sites was the use of the Passivhaus solution, which was a first for Birmingham. This is a technique where homes are built to be highly insulated and household temperatures are controlled through air movement. It prevents a huge amount of heat being lost and results in a much more energy efficient home, including lower heating bills for residents.
A key driver was to boost the local economy and so it was vital that we used local suppliers. As such, we created employment opportunities for 12 local SME businesses, who worked closely with us to deliver the new homes.
Arcadis was also a founding member of Birmingham City Council’s Building Birmingham Scholarship programme, supporting the council as it strives to help those who may have struggled to access higher education across the region. This is an important part of Arcadis’ ethos, and we provided mentoring, career advice and work experience on the BMHT sites to help more than 100 students establish a career in the built environment.
Building Birmingham’s Future
Since work began, we have helped BMHT to build 4,000 new homes in Birmingham, of all different types and tenures. We’ve provided new public spaces to help improve wellbeing, inspire community interaction and sporting activities. We’ve been able to reduce fuel poverty by installing mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems for more energy efficient houses, reducing the carbon footprint and helping those with respiratory conditions. Photovoltaics (PVs) have also been incorporated to help address sustainability, along with a ‘fabric-first’ approach that maximises the performance of the materials that make up the fabric of the building, thereby placing less emphasis on the need for heating and fuel systems.
Due to the collaborative efforts of BMHT and Arcadis, we have been able to create long lasting homes by using groundbreaking procedures such as Passivhaus and modular manufacturing. Through these new methods we were able to vastly reduce not only our own carbon footprint, but that of homeowners too.