Lacey’s wooden plans only build-in problems for the future

CROYDON COMMENTARY: A council-owned house-builder which has yet to build a single house is already talking about diversifying into other areas of the construction trade. It makes CHARLES CALVIN feel very nervous

Croydon Council’s Colm Lacey: needs to focus

I get increasingly nervous about Brick by Brick the more I read about it.

They need to forget everything else and focus on two things only:

(1) delivering developments that Croydon communities want.

(2) delivering sustainable developments that aim to give the best ratio of affordable units in London.

I suggest Colm Lacey, the council employee who is also Brick by Brick’s managing director, focuses on these two goals. In fact, exert 100 per cent effort to achieving these goals.

There can be no time for grandstanding about the future of construction methodologies when you are paid by Croydon Council to do something else.

Lacey is naïve if he thinks he can circumnavigate tested methodologies by Croydon delivering this element of the construction and even supplying the systems to other developers. Can you imagine where liability would lie in all this? You’d have Croydon Council Tax-payers potentially paying out under warranty to failed developments in Kingston, Hammersmith or Sutton… it does not bear thinking about.

I don’t want to get into a debate about the pros and cons of modular timber housing, but I’m not for it. All a bit of a rip-off – Brick by Brick should focus on building proper houses.

Lacey should know there are serious questions about the cost and long-term value of the modular construction model. He’s in this rarefied bubble of using public land. The price tag is all the higher when considering that there was no land acquisition costs, no development levies, no part VAT contribution and no marketing and sales costs.

Lacey should be thinking about sustainable development. The modular homes he is proposing are constructed to have a maximum life span of 60 years. Traditional building methods will accrue substantial value over a 60-year period, while modular homes will depreciate in value, until they are worthless and fit only for demolition.

Achieving value for money is a much-repeated mantra in public decision-making and disappointingly there has been a notable absence of any cost effectiveness evaluation comparing modular construction to traditional build.

Lacey should know this.

  • Charles Calvin was born in New Zealand, lives on the Croydon-Surrey borders and worked in the financial markets in London and Frankfurt
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