Mace Director Simon Underwood has left his position to join The Pickstock Group as Managing Director of its off-site building solutions company, Elements Europe, to boost the industry’s off-site capabilities and provide real solutions to long-term resource issues.
Elements Europe is leading the way in off-site solutions, supplying cost-effective, high-quality products to the construction industry. Elements Europe has manufactured and installed 9197 modules, over £100m of off-site solutions for the hotel, residential, healthcare, education and defence sectors. Elements Europe is well established and is investing heavily for the future in additional manufacturing facilities and by strengthening its management team.
Roland Pickstock, Chairman of The Pickstock Group, said:
“We are really pleased to have Simon as part of the team. By 2020 we will be a leading example to the construction industry in off-site building solutions covering all sectors, providing a real alternative to the traditional on-site construction process which is facing a substantial skills shortage and shortfalls in customer expectations. With Simon’s experience and credentials, I’m sure we can achieve this.”
Elements Europe plans to grow the business substantially over the next 5-10 years, leading the way in design for manufacture, modular housing, modular schools, hotels, student accommodation, retail and defence. Having delivered over 12,000 units of accommodation in different forms over the last 20 years, with his 13 years at Wates and 5 years at Mace, including many modular schemes, Simon Underwood is well placed to do so.
“The long-term strategy is to provide a total off-site solution for buildings across all sectors using design for manufacture and assembly principles,” said Underwood.
“Developers, contractors and the Government are crying out for better, safer, more sustainable and certain delivery models. Construction needs to move on from last century’s methods. Consultants are predicting a capacity shortfall in resource to feed the current construction boom, and Elements Europe will be at the forefront of the solution,” added Underwood.
As well as recruiting Underwood, Elements Europe has recently invested in a manufacturing facility in Telford, increasing capacity by 266%, and has appointed a new head of design, Mark Jowett, to spearhead its design capability.
Recent projects for Elements Europe have included a student accommodation scheme in Bath for Berkeley Homes, with the delivery of 604 Room Modules, and in Colchester the installation of 1049 Room Modules, which was delivered as a turnkey solution working alongside sister company Pickstock Construction. Elements Europe is working on a range of hotels, residential and schools projects. The company is developing plans with a number of housebuilders and private rented sector developers, using its modular experience to create a pipeline of modular homes.
Using Elements Europe is also seeking joint venture development opportunities which lend themselves to modular construction throughout the UK, creating a unique proposition for the market. Underwood invites developers and main contractors to embrace this approach and partner with the company at an early stage to really make a difference.
He says, “Contact us at an early stage in the project when the potential for off-site solutions is at its peak. We will carry out a detailed review of all off-site opportunities and advise how buildings can be designed for manufacture and assembly from the outset with indicative costs for appraisal review. We will produce a detailed strategy so you can maximise the potential.”
Underwood drove off-site solutions on a number of projects while in position at Mace. He said, “One of the best decisions I ever made was to look for an off-site solution to ensure the best possible quality and to speed up construction at a prime residential scheme, 3 Merchant Square, for European Land.”
“The bathrooms, although not standard in size or shape could lend themselves to an off-site solution. The offerings from the off-site supply chain at the time were weak and mixed and we ended up opting for a European supplier who needed their hands held throughout. Taking the bathroom construction off-site saved 6 months on the programme and produced a very high level of quality, for which the scheme has received considerable recognition.”
Andrew Scrivener, Development Director at European Land said, “Without Simon’s passion and drive to deliver an off-site solution we would have struggled with programme and quality. We had high expectations in both aspects. This was recognised at the outset with the off-site solution response. The decision was absolutely right and it’s great to see the finished product.
“We have had very few defects and that’s another very strong benefit of testing the finished product in a factory environment. I’m totally won over by the benefits off-site production can bring. It’s great to see Simon in a position where he can really drive the UK’s capability in this area,” Scrivener added.
In his recent reports about housing supply and resource pressures, Mark Farmer, Partner at EC Harris commented: “Solutions to the housing crisis are complex. As well as planning what and where to build, the UK also needs to address supply-side constraints. The expansion of the capacity of the house-building industry must be driven by a step-change in the financing and delivery of new housing. People and money, rather than land and planning, will have a key role in unlocking the crisis. Clearly, if demand remains high, innovative solutions are needed to address the UK’s long-term housing delivery challenge.”
He continued, “The wider adoption of MMC is most likely to be driven through the build-to-rent segment, where clients benefit directly from the faster, better quality construction. These clients in particular will have a critical role in providing volume, visibility and certainty of workload necessary to unlock investment into MMC. A series of coordinated actions are required from Government and industry that play to a long-term agenda of structural change in UK housing delivery. One of these actions must be to incentivise large-scale investment into modern methods of construction aimed at efficiency and reducing labour requirements.”
On Simon’s move to Elements Europe, Mark said: “Elements Europe is playing its part in investment and building the capability we urgently need. I believe the biggest challenge facing our industry at the moment is changing the way in which we approach and execute the construction process. This is particularly evident in the housebuilding sector, where capacity constraints in traditional skills are becoming a real glass ceiling to UK new housing output.”
Mark continued, “I have known Simon for many years and believe that his decision to join Elements Europe is a prescient move that recognises the likely increasing significance of the off-site and advanced construction manufacturing sectors going forward. I wish him every success and look forward to collaborating on appropriate opportunities.”