BoKlok UK appoints TopHat for first offsite homes in Britain

BoKlok UK, the sustainable, low-cost homes provider jointly owned by Skanska and Ikea, has appointed modular housing manufacturer TopHat to produce its first homes in Britain

In May, BoKlok UK, a jointly owned operation between multinational construction company Skanska and furniture and home accessories giant Ikea, announced that it has appointed technology-driven modular construction specialist TopHat to deliver part of its first offering in Britain.

BoKlok was formed in the early 1990s to offer sustainable, good quality, low-cost homeownership. It completed its first homes in its native Sweden in 1997 and has gone on to build more than 12,000 properties throughout Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Use of MMC technology

All of its homes are produced offsite using Modern Methods of Construction and timber frame, and feature Ikea fittings. Most of its homes will be for market sale, while a portion will be sold to local authorities and housing associations to be part of their social housing schemes.

It entered the UK market in 2019 and that October announced it announced plans for 200 homes in Bristol with Bristol City Council as part of the Bristol Housing Festival, which is trialling innovative offsite housing solutions across the city.

Around 140 of the Bristol homes will be for market sale under the BoKlok brand, with the remainder being for social rent and shared ownership.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said: “At the festival’s launch a year ago, we said we would invite ideas from all over the world and be imaginative in solving the city’s housing emergency. This is exactly what BoKlok will bring with these exciting plans.

“We are also exploring how Bristol City Council might acquire a number of these new homes as part of our commitment to providing more social housing.”

In February 2020, BoKlok UK announced the exchange of contracts on its first three sites – in Bristol, Peacehaven and Worthing. Together, these sites will provide a total of around 400 homes, subject to planning permission.

It has now agreed a five-year contract with TopHat to manufacture two- and three-bedroom houses. Like all BoKlok developments, the homes will be made from timber frames and feature key characteristics such as natural light, low energy consumption and Ikea fittings. All homes will be certified by BOPAS (Building Offsite Property Assurance Scheme).

TopHat was founded in 2016 and commenced production in 2018 at a state-of-the-art indoor manufacturing facility in south Derbyshire. The plant created 150 jobs, a mix of skilled engineering and design jobs, including apprenticeships for plumbers, electricians, carpenters and window fitters, as well as back-office roles.

Using precision, MMC technology, it can design and build a home in an average of 10 weeks, with assembly on-site taking two weeks.

In April 2019, TopHat announced the closure of a £75m capital investment from Goldman Sachs to help it expand and scale the business.

Driving critical change

Tavis Cannell, managing director of Goldman Sachs, said: “TopHat’s technology-driven approach has the potential to make a significant impact on the UK’s housing shortage.

“Their speed, efficiency and high standards make them uniquely positioned to drive critical change in the way the industry currently operates and improve the housing supply chain. We look forward to supporting their continued growth.”

In September, TopHat won the Sunday Times Readers’ Choice Award at the British Homes Awards for its Family of Four range: a variety of homes and flats constructed from a set of four modules. Each home type can be configured with a variety of roof forms, internal layouts and façade designs to adapt to local surroundings and user preference.

BoKlok said it wanted TopHat as a key supply chain partner due to its commitment to quality and sustainability. Its precision-led Modern Methods of Construction technology is the first of its kind: using sustainable materials in factories to produce quality homes at pace.

Graeme Culliton, BloKlok UK managing director and country manager, said: “We share the same ambition to bring innovation and sustainability to the UK housing market, which means attractive and good quality homes for people on average incomes.

“Our two companies complement one another well, with TopHat bringing its high levels of automated manufacturing expertise and BoKlok having over 20 years’ experience developing and manufacturing over 12,000 homes in the Nordics.

“As we venture into the UK, we believe that TopHat will contribute to our long-term vision and success, to provide quality, low-cost homes, using sustainable materials and Modern Methods of Construction.”

Design work is now underway on BoKlok’s Bristol and Peacehaven developments. Subject to planning permission, home sales are expected during the second quarter of 2021.

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