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Sandfields project provides carbon-neutral homes using innovative methods and materials

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The new homes will be insulated using wood, wool, and mushrooms

Two Neath-based construction companies – J.G. Hale Construction, and timber frame construction specialist, SO Modular – are collaborating on a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes, and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.

The scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon-neutral homes for social housing provider, Tai Tarian, delivered across three phases, over three years.

The project is a continuation of the existing relationship between J.G. Hale Construction, SO Modular, and Tai Tarian, and is funded by the Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) – a Welsh Government funded programme to encourage and test innovative approaches to constructing social and affordable housing in Wales.

Construction of the 55 new homes and refurbishment of the 72 flats will be completed utilising modern methods of construction (MMC), including construction of all new homes off-site at SO Modular’s timber frame factory.

The scheme will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives.

Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.

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The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.

As well as reducing the project’s overall carbon footprint, the use of these materials and technology aims to reduce fuel poverty for the development’s tenants by ensuring all homes are built with the top EPA rating of A.

A household is deemed to be in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it requires a spend of more than 10% of its net income on fuel, and in ‘severe’ fuel poverty if fuel costs are more than 20% of household income. Recent Welsh Government figures state that an estimated 155,000 households were living in fuel poverty during 2019 – equivalent to 12% of all households in Wales.

Both J.G. Hale Construction and SO Modular are recognised for being dedicated to innovative, eco-friendly design, quality materials and finishes, and sustainable building practices. The companies are committed to using local sub-contractors and suppliers, with all suppliers and sub-contractors for the Sandfields project sourced from within Wales, with 95% residing within Neath and Swansea.

In collaboration with Neath Port Talbot College, the partnership will also be providing specialist, innovative traineeships, via their in-house training academy. The trainees will be supported by in-house mentors, who are specialists in their respective fields.

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A range of Community Benefits will also be provided for the local community, coinciding with the Welsh Minister of Housing’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Wales Act, 2015.

Tai Tarian’s director of assets, Andrew Carey, said: “County Flats is a prominent part of the Aberavon seafront. Built in the 1950s, the flats are looking tired and are in desperate need of updating. This development will do just that and will provide flats that will be amongst the most energy efficient and sustainable homes in Wales.

“It’s fantastic that we will be working with J.G. Hale Construction, who have committed to using local products and local people.”

David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with SO Modular on this incredibly innovative project for Tai Tarian. The development, when completed, will be completely unique in its use of new sustainable materials and technologies, which we are sure will become more widely used within the construction industry.

“We fully support Tai Tarian’s objective to reduce fuel poverty for its social housing tenants, and by building all homes to the ultimate EPA rating of A, we will not only be helping the tenants save money on their fuel bills, but also be helping reduce energy usage, which is great news in tackling climate change.”

Charlotte Hale, operations director, SO Modular, said: “We’re very proud to be working on this collaboration with J.G. Hale Construction for social housing provider Tai Tarian. The use of these ground-breaking materials, along with our modern methods of construction, should set the standard for similar, future developments.”

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“Our commitment to using local sub-contractors and training local people will, undoubtedly, improve the skills and opportunities for those in the Swansea and Neath areas, making the region the go-to place for knowledge on these new sustainable materials and methods.”

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Construction

UK-wide praise for council’s preferred development partner in Swansea

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An award-winning company appointed to lead a £750m redevelopment of several sites in Swansea has been described as ‘synonymous’ with Manchester’s success.

Urban Splash have now been appointed by Swansea Council as its preferred development partner for a number of sites in the city, including the Civic Centre, Swansea Central North on the former St David’s Shopping Centre site, and a plot of land along the riverside in St Thomas.

The company has developed over 60 regeneration projects across the UK in the last 25 years, including several in Manchester. These include the regeneration of the New Islington part of the city into one of the UK’s best places to live, according to The Sunday Times. The area now includes new homes, workspaces, a marina, shops and other activities.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Urban Splash is synonymous with Manchester’s success. I hope our story goes on further and am certain Urban Splash will continue to help us take this city to greater heights.”

New homes at the New Islington development in Manchester (Image: Swansea Council)

Speaking about Urban Splash, Cllr Suzanne Richards, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: “Their approach to regeneration has set a blueprint for urban renewal and has left a legacy of striking residential developments that have international renown. New Islington in particular should be considered a true regeneration success story, transforming a fringe area of the city centre into one of the most exciting places to live and work in the country.”

To be substantially funded by the private sector, early Urban Splash proposals for Swansea include a mixed-use city waterfront district at the Civic Centre site, anchored by the beach. New homes and a strong leisure and hospitality focus are also proposed, along with plenty of greenery, a new walkway to the beach, a mix of permanent and seasonal uses, and events to create an all-season visitor destination.

More work will now carried out on the early proposals for this site and others in Swansea before plenty of opportunities for local people to give their feedback and help shape the plans.

Other schemes developed by Urban Splash include the Royal William Yard project in Plymouth, where the company transformed a collection of Grade I and Grade II Listed waterfront structures into apartments, workspaces, galleries, bars, restaurants, markets, cultural events and exhibitions.

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Royal William Yard in Plymouth (Image: Swansea Council)

The company is also redeveloping the Grade II Listed Park Hill in Sheffield into a mixed-use cultural quarter, featuring hundreds of homes and workspaces – many of which are complete and fully occupied.

Cllr Terry Fox, Sheffield Council Leader, said: “Park Hill is one of Sheffield’s most iconic and talked about areas, rich in local history, telling the stories of Sheffield’s past while housing the promise of its future. Sixty years after being built, the area is once again a thriving, active community but now has the added vibrancy of regular cultural events, a contemporary café overlooking the city, independent businesses, and is the home of S1 Artspace showcasing a host of talent and attracting visitors from all over.”

Swansea Council’s appointment of Urban Splash followed an extensive search for a preferred development partner as part of the Shaping Swansea initiative.

Early artist’s impression of the Civic Centre site in Swansea (Image: Swansea Council)

At Swansea Central North, new office buildings, new apartments for residents and shared workspaces are proposed, along with space for small creative businesses.

A residential-led regeneration is proposed for the St Thomas site, featuring family homes, apartments, new public spaces and a new terraced river walk providing direct access to the river for the first time in over 150 years.

Further proposals in future will also cover opportunities to develop other key sites across Swansea.

Lead image: Royal William Yard in Plymouth (Image: Swansea Council)

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South Wales modular timber-frame construction firm expands with new hires

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SO Modular, the timber frame construction specialist, has brought in four new members of staff, and promoted two, as it continues to expand its fast-growing, multi-faceted, innovative and sustainable business.

The company’s most recent appointments are Dennis Nelder, Kayleigh Westwood, Mark Hughes, and Nicholas Morris.

Nelder has taken on the role of Transport Manager, following 15 years’ experience working within the supply chain and manufacturing industry for companies, including Celsa.

Westwood is the company’s new Technical Officer, with a remit of overseeing production, monitoring shop floor output, and improving processes. She is responsible for ensuring the organisation’s audit compliance, including maintaining and improving ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards. Her role also includes hosting external audits from various certification bodies, including BOPAS, STA, BBA and BM TRADA.

Hughes takes on the position of Buyer for the company, following 17 years working in a similar role for WRW Construction.

Morris is SO Modular’s new material planner. His responsibilities include determining material specifications, creating and maintaining inventory schedules and delivery changes coordinating with internal departments. He joins the company after five years working as a production co-ordinator at a leading aircraft interiors manufacturer.

The four new team members join SO Modular at its new 350,000 sqft timber and modular manufacturing facility in Neath, South Wales, as it gears up for the facility’s grand opening and a seven-fold increase in its production capacity – following a six-figure investment in new equipment.

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In addition to the four new hires, the company has also promoted timber frame designers, Jack Harding, and Andrew Mitchell, to Design Manager and Technical Manager respectively.

Charlotte Hale

Charlotte Hale, Operations Director at SO Modular, said: “It’s great to be able to welcome so many talented and experienced new staff members to the SO Modular team, as well as developing and promoting the people we already having working at SO Modular. 

“Each of them brings their own unique skills to the company, and we are sure they will all play a part in our continuing development, innovation and expansion.”

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SO Modular boosts team with senior appointment

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SO Modular, the timber frame construction specialist, has strengthened its team with a new senior appointment – commercial manager, Gareth Whitney – as it continues to expand its fast-growing, innovative and sustainable business.

Whitney has joined the innovative, Welsh company to manage its commercial department and explore new commercial opportunities for the firm, as it gears up to increase production by 700% at its modular manufacturing facility in Milland Road, Neath.

Whitney comes to the role with 20 years’ experience within the construction industry: 17 years as an established quantity surveyor/commercial manager and three years as a senior quantity surveyor.

During this time, he has worked for well-known construction firms Persimmon Homes, David McLean Homes, D&K Carpentry Contractors and, most recently, J.G. Hale Construction.

Gareth Whitney, newly appointed commercial manager at SO Modular, said: “This is a very exciting time to be taking on the role of commercial manager at SO Modular. The company’s new facility is ready to make the dramatic seven-fold leap in production capacity, so I am very keen to start developing new commercial opportunities and connections for the firm.

“Sustainability in building design and construction is vital if we are to start addressing our impact on the environment, so the future for innovative, sustainable, eco-friendly homes is incredibly bright. The way that SO Modular looks to improve its own carbon footprint at every turn is inspiring, and the way it is constantly looking to innovate makes the company very forward-thinking. This ethos is something that especially excites me about the company and my new role within it.”

Charlotte Hale, operations director at SO Modular, said: “It’s great to have someone with Gareth’s extensive experience on board at SO Modular. Gareth understands the construction industry inside and out and is passionate about ensuring the future of construction is sustainable. As such, we are sure he will do an excellent job working to develop our commercial opportunities and connections.”

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