Two Neath-based construction companies — J.G. Hale Construction, and timber frame construction specialist, SO Modular — are collaborating on a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.
The scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon neutral homes for social housing provider, Tai Tarian, delivered across three phases, over three years.
The project is a continuation of the existing relationship between J.G. Hale Construction, SO Modular, and Tai Tarian, and is funded by the Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) — a Welsh Government funded programme to encourage and test innovative approaches to constructing social and affordable housing in Wales.
Construction of the 55 new homes and refurbishment of the 72 flats will be completed utilising modern methods of construction (MMC), including construction of all new homes offsite at SO Modular’s timber frame factory.
The scheme will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives. Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.
The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.
As well as reducing the project’s overall carbon footprint, the use of these materials and technology aims to reduce fuel poverty for the development’s tenants by ensuring all homes are built with the top EPA rating of A.
A household is deemed to be in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it requires a spend of more than 10% of its net income on fuel, and in ‘severe’ fuel poverty if fuel costs are more than 20% of household income. Recent Welsh Government figures state that an estimated 155,000 households were living in fuel poverty during 2019 — equivalent to 12% of all households in Wales.
Both J.G. Hale Construction and SO Modular are recognised for being dedicated to innovative, eco-friendly design, quality materials and finishes, and sustainable building practices. The companies are committed to using local sub-contractors and suppliers, with all suppliers and sub-contractors for the Sandfields project sourced from within Wales, with 95% residing within Neath and Swansea.
In collaboration with Neath Port Talbot College, the partnership will also be providing specialist, innovative traineeships, via their in-house training academy. The trainees will be supported by in-house mentors, who are specialists in their respective fields.
A range of community benefits will also be provided for the local community, coinciding with the Welsh Minister of Housing’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Wales Act, 2015.
Tai Tarian’s Director of Assets, Andrew Carey, said: “County Flats is a prominent part of the Aberavon seafront. Built in the 1950s, the flats are looking tired and are in desperate need of updating. This development will do just that and will provide flats that will be amongst the most energy efficient and sustainable homes in Wales. It’s fantastic that we will be working with J.G. Hale Construction, who have committed to using local products and local people.”
David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, commented: “We are delighted to be collaborating with SO Modular on this incredibly innovative project for Tai Tarian. The development, when completed, will be completely unique in its use of new sustainable materials and technologies, which we are sure will become more widely used within the construction industry.
“We fully support Tai Tarian’s objective to reduce fuel poverty for its social housing tenants, and by building all homes to the ultimate EPA rating of A, we will not only be helping the tenants save money on their fuel bills, but also be helping reduce energy usage, which is great news in tackling climate change.”
Charlotte Hale, Operations Director, SO Modular, said: “We’re very proud to be working on this collaboration with J.G. Hale Construction for social housing provider Tai Tarian. The use of these ground-breaking materials, along with our modern methods of construction, should set the standard for similar, future developments.
“Our commitment to using local sub-contractors and training local people will, undoubtedly, improve the skills and opportunities for those in the Swansea and Neath areas, making the region the go-to place for knowledge on these new sustainable materials and methods.”
Header image shows an artist’s impression of the County Flats development Sandfields.