Innovator Craig White Reveals Solution to Affordable Housing Crisis and Climate Change at Gregg Latchams’ Construction Breakfast
Some of the most large and difficult topics – from affordable housing to climate change – were addressed at this month’s Construction Breakfast at Watershed by Craig White, founder of White Design, Director at ModCell, and Chair for Wood for Good. His passions for architecture and construction intersect with sustainability and responsibility, the perfect speaker for modular housing in a growing crisis in the UK.
Craig began by challenging the attendees of our Construction Breakfast that just as in all industries, construction needs to innovate or die. The way that we have been using the planet’s resources is simply not sustainable, and as we are currently using three times what we have, we need to rethink the way that we construct buildings, both residential and commercial, to counteract this debt model.
The construction business has consequences. Although it as an industry has a global value of £2.9 trillion, it also contributes 45% of all man-made CO2, and is the largest killer of cyclists in London right now. None of those figures is good for humanity, especially when you realise that the planet already has a pretty efficient way of dealing with CO2 through the carbon cycle.
Few of us thought that we would be attending a short biology lecture today, but Craig White cleverly interwove facts and figures about photosynthesis and the stomata of leaves towards his ultimate point: that by crafting the built environment from carbon trapping materials, we can build homes that are not only economically sustainable, but also carbon sinks to trap CO2 for the betterment of the planet.
The materials trinity of wood, straw, and lime render were then explored, as Craig demonstrated the simplicity and speed at which a building that was designed and pre-fabricated could be assembled. With software to design all the cutting patterns for the pre-fabricated designs, and innovative ‘pop-up factories’ making use of disused barns, warehouses, and the like,, his team are now able to put together a modular pre-fabricated three-bedroom house in just one working day.
And the proof is in the pudding. One of the homes that is constructed using this carbon trapping system is the equivalent of a 2 kW PV array running continuously for 45 years – astounding when you consider that PV arrays may not even be able to last that long! Craig emphasised that not only is this beneficial for the environment, but it is then also a carbon asset for the property owners, giving them an investment into the future.
Craig then explored the benefits of offsite manufacture for pre-fabricated homes, from generating less waste to experiencing fewer accidents, enjoying delivery certainty to the impressive speed of construction. The opportunity here is so great that China has just invested £2.5bn into modular housing in the UK itself – so companies will need to be swift if they want to carve a piece of the market out for themselves.
The final reminder from Craig was that in many cases, ‘affordable housing’ simply is not affordable. He described it as the ‘oxymoron of our time’ and challenged those in the room to think differently about the way that they construct and develop property, giving examples of cooperatives that have banded together to access the housing market. By combining medieval chattel law, and the Caravan Act Craig has enabled people to buy one bed homes for just £75,000 – something that many would have considered impossible ten years ago. White Design and the Knowle West Media Centre have co developed the We Can Make project in Knowle West, where the first of this new form of housing has been delivered.
We once again took over Cinema 3 at the Watershed this month thanks to the crowd of over 70 people who attended, and the networking was in full force as Bristol and South West companies made new connections and refreshed old ones.