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By Andrew Shepherd

Managing Director, TopHat


Why modular housing is primed to deliver the green homes of the future

In June 2019, the UK became the first country to commit to bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

Environmentally-friendly homes have a key role to play in achieving this ambitious target, and modular housing is already ready and able to deliver these eco-friendly homes today.

For example, something as simple as timber technology massively cuts the carbon footprint. Our use of it means one traditional masonry home has the same embodied carbon as 27 TopHat homes. 


TopHat can also deliver zero-carbon homes, meaning they emit no carbon from utilities such as heating, water and electricity. This is done by utilising low-carbon technologies such as air source heat pumps and solar panels.

While a lot of the focus in winning support for modular to deliver more green homes is on the benefits it brings to investors, developers and local councils, the simple fact remains that these homes will also be beneficial to the most important part of the whole chain - the homeowner.

Given soaring energy costs, being able to live in a home that saves you money may start to be a deciding factor.  Recent figures released by Ofgem found that UK households face a significant rise in annual energy bills this year. From 1 April 2021, the price cap on a typical bill is set to rise by up to £96.

Wider adoption of factory-built homes that already embody these energy-saving elements, could see homeowners save thousands a year in energy bills, as well as help attract investors and councils to new developments.

By integrating technology into our design processes, which allows the company to model the energy performance of a home by collecting and collating empirical data points, we typically deliver homes that are a third more energy-efficient than those traditionally. The airtight modular construction of homes also allows them to be very well-insulated, preventing any energy from escaping.

A TopHat resident can expect to pay less than 90p per day in bills. This means residents can save over a third when compared to traditional homes, which on average run at £3 a day. That’s £326 per year instead of £1,138.

Solar panels on the roofs of our houses convert the sun’s energy into electricity, saving residents around £300 per year, based on a 3.5kWp system. We also install 100% LED low energy lighting, which saves approximately 80% of the cost used for lighting relative to conventional incandescent lighting. This is likely to save around £100 on the cost of lighting overall.

Our innovative in-house technologies allow our homes to be of a higher quality than a traditionally built house. Homes are much less likely to develop snags or issues, which could normally lead to further costs. Our most recent technological advances also let us integrate data gathered across the supply chain, design and production phases, so any issues residents have can be recorded to ensure they don’t happen in other homes.

Lowering our energy usage naturally means we are a lot more environmentally-friendly than traditional house building and this extends to the production process, which creates less waste due to cut to measure materials. Compared to an equivalent, traditionally-built project, up to 67% less energy is required to produce a modular building and offsite construction typically produces 40% less carbon emissions than traditional construction.

Many consumers might have concerns about getting mortgages and home insurance for modular housing thanks to lingering memories of bad pre-fabs from the post-war era. TopHat’s homes are eligible for both, and come with a warranty that covers 75 years – that’s 15 years more than traditional bricks and mortar.

Homes as ESG friendly as TopHat’s mean they appeal to more than just the consumer. Local authorities who choose modular housing will be able to ensure that they are delivering homes fit for the greener country the UK government is aiming for. Local authorities will also be delivering homes that are affordable to heat, for those with the least to spend on heating, helping in reduce fuel poverty.

It may also spark a new round of investment into modular housing as a whole. While for many years ESG was a secondary concern for investors, today they understand the many ways in which environmental, social and governance can greatly reduce risks.

In terms of saving both money and the planet then, modular housing can be very appealing to consumers, councils and investors alike. Simultaneously, their speedy and efficient manufacturing means they can be widely available for consumers, while also accelerating the delivery of homes to meet the government’s targets.

*Andrew Shepherd is managing director of modular housebuilder TopHat


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