Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, visits new facility
We were delighted to welcome the Economy Minister and Senedd Member, Vaughan Gething, to SO Modular’s new state-of-the-art, off-site manufacturing facility, located at the ‘Old Metal Box’ factory in Neath.
Mr Gething was given a guided tour around the new facility, ahead of its grand opening later in the year. During his visit, we showed him our latest investment in new equipment and explained our plans for the site – where we will be producing our sustainable, innovative, modular wood panel systems and roof trusses for use in the wider construction industry.
The regeneration of the ‘Old Metal Box’ factory into our new facility has been made possible due to a substantial £900,000 Property Business Development Gran through the European Regional Development Fundt.In addition, loan funding support worth over £2.85 million, provided through the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) to Tai Tarian Housing Association, has facilitated further investment in plant and machinery to increase our capacity.
This increased capacity will allow us, here at SO Modular, to help tackle the local and national housing shortage, by creating affordable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly housing.
Senedd Member and Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:“This government is committed to backing Welsh business and as we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic one of my priorities is to kickstart Wales’ economic recovery, ensuring it becomes an engine for sustainable, green growth.
“SO Modular is a well-established company anchored in the local community. They are an important employer in the region, and I am delighted our support will help them to grow their business and further their decarbonisation ambitions.”
SO Modular and J. G. Hale Construction chairman, Jonathan Hale, said:“It was wonderful to be able to welcome Mr Gething to our brand-new site at the newly regenerated ‘Old Metal Box’ factory. The investment received through the Property Business Development Grant and the Welsh Government’s IHP scheme has made an enormous difference to SO Modular’s capacity.
Regeneration of the Old Metal Box factory and, subsequently, increasing capacity at SO Modular are both integral to the economic recovery Wales very much needs. The facility’s sustainable, eco-friendly products will also go some considerable distance to helping Wales achieve its future zero-carbon housing targets.”
SO Modular welcomes its new construction manager, Rhodri Perkins
We’re delighted to welcome the latest addition to the SO Modular team – our new construction manager, Rhodri Perkins.
Rhodri has extensive experience working within the construction industry over his 24-year career. Originally starting his professional journey as a qualified carpenter, Rhodri has steadily worked his way up to where he is today – an experienced construction manager.
Rhodri’s main area of expertise is in the construction of large accommodation blocks and housing projects for housing associations and private sales.
Having gained considerable construction experience with a variety of contractors over the years – including Morganstone and TRJ – Rhodri has held several managerial roles and is now set to play a key role in SO Modular’s timber frame and modular expansion, at a very exciting time of growth for the company.
Alongside his prior work for several prestigious companies, Rhodri has also run his own carpentry company for the last 20 years.
Speaking about his recent appointment with SO Modular, Rhodri Perkins, said:
“So far, my time with SO Modular has been really enjoyable and a real learning curve. I’m looking forward to progressing with my career and helping continue the growth of this great company.
“One particularly exciting development, which I’m really looking forward too, is the opening of our new state of the art modular and timber frame facility. We have some great plans and innovations on the horizon, here at SO Modular, and I cannot wait to see where we can go”.
SO Modular attains BOPAS accreditation
Here at SO Modular, we’re delighted to announce that we’ve attained BOPAS certification – an accreditation recognised by principal mortgage lenders as providing the necessary assurance to address the perceived risks associated with innovative construction methods.
The Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) has been designed to address the issues associated with bringing innovative or non-traditional building methods and materials to the market.
Historically, mortgage lenders have been reluctant to lend against forms of construction with which they are unfamiliar. In many instances, valuers may have refused to value properties, as part of the mortgage application process, if the property incorporated unfamiliar building systems.
To address this issue, BOPAS has been jointly developed by Buildoffsite, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Lloyd’s Register and BLP Insurance, in consultation with the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) and the Building Societies Association (BSA).
Accreditation by the scheme provides comprehensive assurance to mortgage lenders that innovatively constructed properties will be sufficiently durable as to be readily saleable for a minimum of 60 years – underpinned by warranty.
BOPAS certification lasts for three years, at the end of which BOPAS assessors will visit us to complete a two-day audit before recertifying. During the three-year period, BOPAS make two ‘surveillance visits’ yearly, with one focusing on the design and manufacture, the other an on-site visit monitoring construction.
Our current research and development projects consist of manufacturing carbon-neutral but affordable timber-frame homes; homes that are so thermally efficient, with U-values so low, they require minimal heating and cooling, potentially completely removing the need for a central heating system at all.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said:
“We’re very proud to have achieved this certification from BOPAS as a manufacturer and supplier. The scheme gives the correct assurances to mortgage lenders that our innovative products have the durability required to meet and exceed the BOPAS standards.
“With the construction industry constantly changing to incorporate more environmentally friendly practices, and timber frame buildings fast becoming the norm across the UK, BOPAS is a positive encouragement for us here at SO Modular to continue researching, developing and adapting to meet modern housing demands.”
Investing in new talent after uplift in demand
Here at SO Modular, we’re proud to be able to welcome a number of new recruits on the back of an uplift in work as we move into 2021, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
Joseph Murnane joins us as a Trainee Designer and Harrison Davies as a Trainee QS. Both join as apprentices and we will work closely with Cyfle and Neath Port Talbot College to give them a rounded education and ensure they are fully qualified in their respective fields.
The course will mix classroom training with on-the-job experience, learning a number of skills in the process.
Harrison Davies, apprentice quantity surveyor, said:
“I am delighted to be a part of SO Modular. I am very excited to develop new skills, gain a plethora of knowledge from my colleagues and pursue my desired career in Estimating and Quantity Surveying.”
Joseph Murnane, trainee timber frame designer, said:
“I am happy to have started work here at SO Modular and I look forward to the challenges that lay ahead. I have already developed more knowledge and skills, including working the software needed for design, during the few weeks that I have been here. I have also learnt a lot about how the structure of timber frame is made. During my first year in college, I thoroughly enjoyed the design module, and this is why I wanted to start an apprenticeship based on design. So far, I have enjoyed the work that I have done at SO Modular.” Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said:
“We are enjoying a big uplift in demand as we move into 2021 and we are excited to be able to offer young people this opportunity. We look forward to watching our new apprentices grow with our company in 2021 – giving young people a chance is important in these challenging times.”
What is Passivhaus
Here at SO Modular, we have invested heavily in training all our employees in our fitting teams to educate them around the importance of air tightness and Passivhaus standards. We are also delighted to be working with Lloyd & Gravell on two new school builds that will embrace Passivhaus standards.
The Passivhaus concept was devised by Dr Wolfgang Feist who completed a great deal of research into the amount of energy consumed in buildings. He found that the energy consumed was often much higher than originally predicted.
On the back of his work, he developed a building standard that is truly energy-efficient, comfortable and affordable. The first building built with these standards in mind was built some 25 years ago in Darmstadt, Germany.
The concept means that buildings must make efficient use of the sun, internal heat sources and heat recovery, making conventional heating sources unnecessary even in the coldest winters. It also means that buildings must have good indoor air quality, a ventilation system to supply fresh air and a low carbon footprint.
While the upfront cost of a Passivhaus building might be higher, they consume up to 90% less energy compared to a conventional building, dramatically reducing the whole life operational carbon emissions and running costs.
There are increasingly stringent standards and certification criteria around this form of building, which we support wholeheartedly.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said: "Everything we do at SO Modular is guided by environmentally friendly principles and we believe that Passivhaus principles will become ever-more important and pervasive in the construction industry. That is why we have made the investment we have and are always delighted to work on projects that embrace these standards."
More about the Passivhaus concept can be found here: Passivehaus Trust
Investing in our people: Passivhaus training
Here at SO Modular, we are delighted to say that all the employees in our fitting teams have now taken and passed an in-house training programme, designed to educate them around the importance of air tightness and Passivhaus standards.
Passivhaus standards relate to the energy consumed by buildings and the extent to which they are energy-efficient, comfortable and affordable, applying stringent standards and certification criteria to buildings.
The training was carried out by specialist design and manufacturing engineer, Verity Moorhouse, who we are working with us as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, a Welsh Government initiative designed to help companies innovate by matching the skills and expertise of individuals in higher education with companies.
The initiative also represented an important landmark in our journey to establish a formal training academy at our headquarters, the former Metal Box Factory, in partnership with Neath Port Talbot College and Cardiff Metropolitan University.
The Passivhaus training programme enabled us to collect invaluable feedback from staff on the best way of creating a training academy on site with a view to launching the best learning facility for Offsite Manufacturing in the UK.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said: “We believe in the importance of training the next generation and the value of quality in everything we do. A training programme like this helps instill these values in our people, and ensures our staff are trained correctly.
“We understand that without the right training in place we cannot achieve the best results. Our aim is to inspire future generations to believe in producing a quality product and protecting our environment.”
Applying Passivhaus standards to two new school builds
Following a significant investment in training our staff to understand and adhere to Passivhaus standards, we are delighted to be working on two exciting projects with Lloyd & Gravell that will embrace those standards.
A new 270-place, English-medium primary school with 30-place nursery and up to 23 full-time places for Early Years provision, is being constructed adjacent to the current Ysgol y Castell in Kidwelly. The current facility will be demolished on completion of the new build to accommodate a MUGA sports field and car parking area.
We are also delighted to be working on the Ysgol Gorslas project with the company, a new £6.8million project that will create a new 210 pupil capacity school building on land located behind Gorslas Community Park. Both schools will be built to a BREEAM Excellent, and energy efficient Passivhaus standard
The scheme will provide space to accommodate nursery provision and facilities which can be shared by the community such as a large hall, school field and a multi-use games area. It is hoped the new school building can still be completed by Spring 2022.
The project has been developed as part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme (MEP) in collaboration with the Welsh Governments 21st Century Schools Programme.
For both schools, SO Modular will build and install a timber frame structure including all steel and glulams required for the buildings as well as installing insulation to Passivhaus standards.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said: "These are two fantastic projects to be working on. It is always great to be creating buildings that will play a vital role in educating and inspiring future generations. Evermore so when working with a partner such as Lloyd and Gravell who are such a remarkable Contractor to work with.
“We are also delighted to be able to apply Passivhaus standards to these builds. We have invested in training out staff in these standards and we look forward to putting that investment into practice.”
Dedication and training: celebrating success with our staff
Here at SO Modular, we know that we are only ever as good as our people. We aspire to work with individuals who are hard-working, motivated and always go the extra mile – in all aspects of their lives.
We are also incredibly proud of our people’s achievements outside work. So, we want to give huge credit to Josh Collins, one of our senior estimators, who has featured in his first professional bodybuilding competition – and come back with a number of medals and accolades.
In his first NFMUK event (the UK promotor of the Global Bodybuilding Organization), Josh placed in four categories: 1st in the Men’s Fitness category, 2nd in the Beginners Men’s Fitness category, 2nd in the Men’s Beach Category and 2nd in the PRO Men’s Fitness Category.
Because it was his first event, Josh, who trains at Neath Sports Centre, started the evening by entering the beginners’ categories. However, after doing so well, he was awarded his ‘PRO’ card that day and was allowed to compete again later that evening against other PRO Status competitors.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said: “We are so proud of Josh and his achievements. We always support our people in every way we can, and it is amazing to see Josh achieve so much in a sport that is his passion and requires such dedication and hard work.”
Leading the way on sourcing wood locally – and helping others do the same.
Governments and local authorities are increasingly seeking sustainability – in all types of policies but especially construction. This means more timber frame homes and also carefully considering where and how the timber is sourced.
Here at SO Modular, we are proud of the fact that the timber we use is sourced locally. The majority comes from our own doorstep in the Neath Valley, milled by Pontrilas Sawmills, just over an hour away in Hereford. Founded in 1947, Pontrilas is one of the largest independent sawmills in the UK as well as one of the most advanced and technically automated in the country.
We use enough wood every year to build more than 1,000 timber frame homes. This amount is set to increase exponentially as our business grows rapidly and demand for timber frame solutions soars.
Since our investment in the Metalbox Factory in Neath, we have capacity to make more than 3,500 homes a year. As such, we are seeking new sources of timber in Wales.
Timber frame homes offer many advantages including more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient credentials. Their carbon footprint is considerably smaller than other construction methods as they require less materials and labour, which results in less machinery.
They are far faster to build than a traditional brick and mortar house. All of the timber frames can be constructed off-site quickly (undisturbed by bad weather) and transported to sites, where they can be erected promptly and efficiently.
More and more tenders are now starting to emerge in which it is specified that the wood for timber frame homes is sourced locally. To which we fully endorse.
These local initiatives intersect with the wider aims and objectives of the Welsh Government. In its Future Generations Act, Wales has set out a vision to increase environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing in the country. On 29 April 2019 Welsh Government declared a climate emergency and subsequently published a 10 Point Plan to Fund Wales’ Climate Emergency.
Consequently, it pushes for a change in the countrys policy that will increase forestation (approx. 4000ha per year until 2050) to sequester carbon and increase timber for use in construction. The aim is to create high-performance and affordable new timber homes while supporting local manufacturers and suppliers.
Responding to this, Woodknowledge Wales along with the Welsh woodland organisation, Coed Cymru, Cardiff Metropolitan University and BM TRADA, established the Home-Grown Homes project. The project’s purpose is “to create high-performance and affordable new homes from wood in a manner that maximises the opportunity for local manufacturers and home-grown timber.”
As part of the Home-Grown Homes partnership, one local authority, Powys County Council, has adopted a Wood Encouragement Policy. The mission is to “build better, more energy efficient houses, support the local forestry industry and to create jobs. The policy sets out that all new council housing projects will look to use wood as the preferred material for both construction and fit-out purposes.”.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said: “The policy is the first of its kind in the UK but it is likely others will follow. Here at SO Modular, we remain committed to leading the way in developing a sustainable and environmentally friendly supply chain that aligns with these policies and objectives. We are exploring all avenues of ensuring that we continue to source wood locally and work with all relevant parties to make this a reality. SOM are very proud to say that they currently nearing completion on the first of its kind, all Welsh Timber Frame project in Brecon for Powys County Council.
New biomass boiler is a step towards embracing the circular economy
Here are SO Modular, we are delighted to unveil our new biomass boiler at our headquarters, the result of a significant investment but one which moves use closer to becoming completely self sufficient in terms of our energy and our production process.
The cutting edge biomass boiler was installed by energy specialist Novalux Energy. It is fuelled by our offcuts and wood shavings, a natural biproduct of the production process and will re-use 90% of the fuel into usable heat.
It works by burning the fuel at high temperatures to produce heat, or thermal energy. This thermal energy is transferred to a heat exchanger which provides you with heat for space or processes. The technology also utilises carbon filters to filter out impurities in its emissions to ensure they are not harmful to the local environment.
The installation means that we now recycling a very high percentage of our waste material, converting it into energy. We are now almost self-sufficient in our energy needs during production and even have surplus at some points in time, which we sell to the grid.
Charlotte Hale, our Operations Director, said: “We are embracing sustainability in all aspects of what we do and the biomass boiler is just the first of several initiatives we have planned including solar panels. We believe this will be a fantastic case study for the benefits of the circular economy.
“Our aim is to sustainably redefine the buildings we construct and restore our new facility to its former glory but in an innovative and eco-friendly way; we want it to be a landmark of the town again, which the community can be proud of, while also benefiting the local supply chain and keeping jobs and money in the region.”
SO Modular celebrates win at regional awards
Celebrating its rapid growth and commitment to innovation, SO Modular Ltd has been named as one of the winners at The Welsh Women’s Awards, which took place on 3 April.
The awards, which took place at The Exchange Hotel, Cardiff, recognised Charlotte Hale, director of SO Modular, as the winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year award for her commitment to developing and growing the company since its launch in June 2018.
SO Modular continues to be at the forefront of innovative and creative solutions within the construction industry, pushing boundaries and developing products that enable it to boost efficiency, sustainability and cost-effectiveness across a diverse range of construction projects.
Its current research and development projects consist of manufacturing carbon-neutral but affordable timber-frame homes. These thermally efficient homes have U-values so low, they require minimal heating and cooling, potentially completely removing the need for a central heating system at all.
Charlotte Hale, director of SO Modular, said:
“I am thrilled to have won Entrepreneur of the Year at The Welsh Women’s Awards. I am passionate about making SO Modular an innovative, environmentally friendly and sustainable company – with the aim of making our planet as sustainable as can be.
“We have some really exciting plans for the next 12 months that will see SO Modular expand, grow and create more jobs, which in turn will support the local economy.”
The Welsh Women’s Awards, run by Creative Oceanic, is just one of the categories of awards run by the event host. Creative Oceanic operates and delivers events such as The Welsh Women’s Awards in nine different cities across the UK, Ireland and Canada. Some of the award ceremonies it runs in Wales are: The Welsh Hospitality Awards; The Welsh Wedding Awards; The Food Awards Wales; and The Welsh Independent Retail Awards, to name but a few.
Prostrate Cancer UK
SO Modular are raising money in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.
A team of 20 members of staff are doing the Pen Y Fan climb on Sunday 24th March.
Please follow the link below to our just giving page. We would be grateful for any donations:Just Giving
Chiltern in progress
November is approaching and we will be raising money for the Movember Foundation to support mental health and cancer.
Our staff will be paticipating in this event and for anyone who would like to get involved are welcome too.
Visit our team page in the link below to donate, see more information and join in!moteam.co
New brand, new website
Seven oaks Modular has been rebranded with thanks to Techmeleon
A new modern website and technelogical updates to its processes will ensure SOM will continue to be a leader in the timber frame sector manufacturing sector.
Seven Oaks Pricing
SOM have commissioned a new pricing system for the quotation process of tenders. With the assistance of Techmeleon a fully dynamic, structured and adaptable system has been created to produce competative, fast & accurate pricing.
Neath based timber company set to grow by 5 million
Seven Oaks Modulars, the award-winning Neath based timber frame manufacturer, looks set to reach its £6million growth target as it doubles its factory space and invests in new staff and equipment.
The company has recently purchased one and a half acres of land adjacent to its existing one acre site. The new space will be incorporated into the current site to create a high end, purpose built environment to store and prepare timber frames.
At present the company produces enough panels to make 12 homes a week, but it is planned that by the end of 2018, that number will double. To enable the increase in output, a £300,000 investment has been made to purchase a new eco press, and £100,000 in new lorries.
Seven Oaks has also invested in new marketing staff, 10 new lorry drivers and two new trainee timber designers. The trainee designers will work across projects for local authorities, private contractors and housing associations, as the company expands its remit and reach across the UK.
Seven Oaks Timberframe currently supplies timber frame and composite construction solutions to major house builders and construction companies across the UK.
It also supplies all the frames required by sister company J G Hale Construction; playing a contributing role in the construction company’s recent success at the LABC South Wales Building Excellence Awards.
The growth has largely been driven by Seven Oaks Timberframe’s development of Triso-warm, an innovative type of insulated timber frame that has the capacity to significantly reduce heating and energy bills.
Earlier this year, Triso-warm became the only UK produced timber frame of its kind to gain BBA approval – the stamp of approval required by the construction industry.
Chairman of Seven Oaks, Jonathan Hale commented:
“This is a really exciting time for Seven Oaks Modular. We have spent a long time building up our staff expertise and investing in the right equipment to produce Triso-warm frames. Now the time is right to take what we’ve achieved and significantly increase our output. Having the extra land, new drivers and designers joining will enable us to make the leap a reality.”
Seven Oaks attends the Explore Offsite South West Conference in Exeter
Explore Offsite Exeter – Two members of our team at Seven Oaks recently attended the Explore Offsite South West Conference in Exeter. Senior Designer Warren Rowlands and Business Development Officer Robert Spear met with various offsite organisations to gain further knowledge and insight into the Offsite modular movement, which is showing great opportunity within the construction community in the UK.
Seven Oaks moving forward are looking to introduce more bespoke modular products in to their range as the UK housing market leans towards offsite production as a means to counteract a skills shortage within the construction sector.
Triso-Warm achieves BBA approval
Seven Oaks, wales leading timber frame manufacturer and supplier, has been granted approval by the british board of agrément for Triso-Warm®, an innovative timber frame building panel which has the capacity to cut heating and energy bills to virtually zero. Triso-warm achieves ultra-low u-values with high strength panels, promoting off-site manufacture with factory controlled quality.
Always insist on BBA approved panels
Third party certification is extremely important for construction products. Certification means that an independent body has reviewed the manufacturing process of a particular product. It has been independently determined that the final product complies with safety, industry standards. Quality and conforms to british and european standards.
This valuable third party endorsement for a product’s performance gives specifiers and contractors extra reassurance that products have been rigorously tested.
Seven Oaks Timber Frame are proud sponsors of the 2016 Building Excellence Awards
For the second year running Seven Oaks are proud to be the main sponsor of the labc building excellence awards a prestigeous event for professionals to be recognised and celebrate their achievements in the construction industry. They reward excellent buildings, outstanding companies, and partnerships and individuals that go that extra mile.
The LABC network covers all local authorities in England and Wales and is split into 12 regions, each of which holds their own awards.
Unlike other awards, it’s not all about looks! LABC consider other vital elements including:
- High levels of compliance with building regulations
- Effective working relationships with LABC surveyors
- Outstanding craftsmanship
- Technical innovation
- Sustainability and high performance
- Ability to solve technical problems with creative solutions
- Use of innovative products and the skills to overcome difficult site conditions
Regional winners in each category are automatically shortlisted for the LABC Grand Finals which are held in London.