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Fuse Modular – a journey to an affordable NZC modular home

This week our guest bloggers are Fuse Architects. They are currently reaching out to all those in the affordable homes community who can assist them in designing a Net Zero Carbon (NZC) modular home. Take the survey if you have thoughts and ideas that will benefit your customers.

Who are we

Fuse Architects are a small (18 person) architects practice based in London Bridge.

We primarily work in the housing sector, mostly affordable housing, and we are significantly adding to the debate, design, delivery and thinking around NZC buildings, especially NZC housing and MMC. We are a carbon neutral company and proud to have a people first philosophy.

We have designed and delivered, over the last three years a number of new build, socially rented projects in the southeast to a NZC standard and are proud to see families living and benefitting from reduced fuel bills. This fits in with our people first philosophy, actively working for better homes, eradicating fuel poverty and being carbon conscious.

Our Modular mission

When we were asked to develop designs for a game changing, affordable, NZC modular housing system that specifically meets the needs of the rented and shared ownership affordable housing sector, we felt excited for the challenge and proud to be leading this project.

Our vision is to create Modular NZC affordable homes that are beautiful, robust, user-friendly, deliverable and viable. To help us achieve that we are asking for input from tenant and resident groups, tenant/resident liaison officers, and anyone working in affordable housing who is involved in the delivery or management of new homes. We want to try and understand what makes affordable housing liveable, usable, and successful for tenants, asset managers and landlords.

Dave Hughes, our design director and the Fuse design team are super excited to use their years of experience in design and their knowledge of NZC and MMC and have been working on designs. To make sure this fits residents’ needs we have collectively formulated a survey that we have sent to housing associations, resident liaison officers and people we know in the housing market. The survey covers various questions, preferences, and design options for both Rented and Shared Ownership new-build housing. At this stage we are focussing solely on houses, not flats.

The Science stuff

The Fuse Modular home will address the climate crisis and affordable housing shortage and work to unlock the mass delivery of affordable, NZC, modular housing.

Modular housing, combined with Net Zero Carbon is the solution to our energy and housing crisis. To summarise the facts,

  • Modular homes cost 55% less to heat than the average UK home and 32% less than traditional new builds
  • Modular homes are built 50% faster to make from start to finish than bricks and mortar homes
  • Building with modular can halve emissions when building a home, cutting the amount of CO2 produced as a result of construction by up to 83%
  • Modular home construction is both more efficient and kinder to the environment with substantially less waste, 90% down on materials wastage than traditional builds
  • Modular building heavily reduces the amount of transport access needed for building sites, with 80% fewer vehicle movements to sites and therefore far less local disruption and pollution of the environment


Next Steps – Get in Touch

We have launched the survey  to a wider audience  and to register your input and take part please contact [email protected]

It takes just six minutes to complete, runs until 8th March and we are keen to hear from as many housing people as possible.

Once we have the results, we will be releasing the design and will be arranging a series of workshops to showcase the results. We will then be working with affordable partners and our delivery partner to roll out a series of pilot sites.


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Should Biodiversity Net Gain be seen as an opportunity for developers?

Here our guest writer, Richard Dean of Arbtech tells us more……

What is BNG?

Biodiversity Net Gain has been introduced to ensure that the biodiversity of an area is improved following the completion of land development projects. Our biodiversity net gain consultants will ensure that as much of a site’s flora and fauna as possible will be preserved, however, in some circumstances, proposals will mean a loss to the environment and an alternative location may be required to allocate the required biodiversity net gain units to.

Has BNG become law?

Although the Environment Act 2021 is a part of UK law, its policies – with mandatory biodiversity net gain included – aren’t expected to be fully integrated until the year 2023 as it goes through a two-year transition period. Many local planning authorities, however, are already enforcing the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in line with detailed guidance from DEFRA and Natural England and are applying a 10% biodiversity net gain requirement on each new development proposal in preparation for it becoming the norm.

With a growing number of local planning authorities stipulating biodiversity net gain as a general condition of granting planning consent, it’s advisable to consider the requirement early as part of the pre-development preparations.

Is BNG bad news for developers?

While it’s understandable that land developers, architects, planners and other relevant professionals might see this emphasis on environmental protection as yet another hurdle to jump in the pursuit of planning consent, it’s better to view the mandatory requirement as an investment.

Nature has been in decline for decades: a report from 2019 claimed that 41% of UK species have decreased and, shockingly, the abundance of the UK’s priority species has declined by as much as 60% since 1970. It is therefore imperative that property developers play their part in helping to improve the UK’s biodiversity.

BNG metrics and measurement

Under the new legislation, you will need to submit information and receive approval for what is known as a ‘biodiversity net gain plan’ (or sometimes simply referred to as a ‘net gain plan‘). Once the Environment Act 2021 becomes more frequently adhered to as part of law, you will need a net gain plan to secure planning permission for your development. At this point, it is important to stress that this is non-negotiable – no plan, no planning permission.

It may come as a relief to know that the process of measuring biodiversity net gain will not be an arbitrary decision made by your local planning officer. Instead, it will be measured in the same way nationally, using the DEFRA biodiversity metric 3.1 – a tool specifically designed to measure biodiversity gains or losses.

Can biodiversity units be delivered off-site if they cannot be accommodated on-site?

Ideally, your local planning authority will expect you to provide the biodiversity net gain on-site, however, in some circumstances this simply will not be possible. In these cases, the local authority will look closely at your plans and may still grant consent if you can deliver sufficient biodiversity net gain off-site, ideally locally to the application site.

How to protect your businesses pipeline of future projects

  1. Engage the services of a suitably qualified biodiversity net gain consultant early in the planning process.
  2. Consider all opportunities for retaining as much existing biodiversity on site as possible and seek ways of improving this where feasible.
  3. If you are unable to provide the required number of biodiversity units on site, you will need to either negotiate a financial contribution to the local authority or provide the units on nearby land.
  4. If your business has assets with no development potential, consider creating biodiversity units to ‘bank’ and satisfy future needs. This forward planning will help protect your development pipeline and potentially avoid costly planning refusals.

Why Arbtech?

When it comes to something as important as achieving planning approval, it’s crucial that you have biodiversity net gain advice and guidance from genuine experts that offer good practice on ecology matters and understand other issues such as existing legal implications. Every single one of our ecologists is licenced and educated to Bachelor’s or Master’s level. They know their stuff, possessing a wealth of expertise about local and national ecological networks to guide effective environmental management, based on the corresponding local planning authority’s criteria.

Arbtech have national coverage and can also provide you with a full range of ecology and arboriculture services, meaning we are a one-stop consultancy and take complete ownership so you can get planning permission, fast. We typically provide over 4,000 surveys annually and have 55+ staff across the UK.

If you would like us to quote on your next project, then contact Richard Dean on [email protected] or take a look at our website