Beattie Passive – From the Ground Up: Modular at Scale

Beattie Passive’s goal is nothing less than to revolutionise the construction sector.

It has been a decade since Beattie Passive was founded with the ambition of lifting the standard of building across all sectors. From the beginning, founder Ron Beattie was adamant he wanted to develop something new.

“We didn’t want to just repeat what had happened before, with small increments to building regulations,” he says. “We wanted to look at the whole building process and how we build while keeping in mind the longevity of buildings, materials, climate change and skills. We came up with a new building system that would lift the quality of a building, allow it to meet high standards of energy performance and which could be built anywhere. It doesn’t matter what kind of building, whether it’s a house, a block of flats, or a school, they’re all delivered with the same system.”

This ambition was born out of a desire to solve existing problems in housing development, and in order to do this, Beattie believed that what was needed was one complete build system.

“I designed a whole build system (from the floor, to walls, to roof) that delivers Passivhaus as standard and far exceeds Building Regulation requirements for structural, thermal, airtightness, fire, acoustics and radon gas,” he tells us. “We fully test every single building to guarantee its performance. The system was the first complete build system to be certified by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany and we now have 96 patents in 42 countries. Over the years we have expanded from stick-built to panel built, and fully modular building.”

The key is accessibility to everyone across the construction industry.

“The system needs to be right for all parties involved in the build, from architects and plumbers, to of course the end-user,” Beattie says. “And we’ve designed the build system to be simple so that anyone can do it. At our Training Academy, we’ve welcome experienced teams of builders, self-builders and those with no previous construction experience as well as training people in skills development centres, colleagues and HM Prison Service.”

The end result is buildings that have truly mind-boggling performance.

“Our sound insulation is six times better than building regulations demand. Every single one is built in a way that if it gets soaking wet, the moisture will dissipate and regain its performance,” Beattie tells us.” And all the materials are reusable and recyclable. You can take it all down, reshape it and reuse it to make another home in 10, 50- or 100-years’ time.”

Building Futures

This is not the only long-term challenge that Beattie and his business are seeking to address.

“An estimated 320,000 people in the UK are homeless, and without action they expect this to double in the next 20-25 years. I believe that everyone in the UK should have a safe and warm place to call home. The current temporary housing solutions are not fit for purpose, so I developed the Haus4 range of modular homes. The units range in size, from 25 square metres and up, and are built to the same standard as any other Beattie Passive build, from a £3 million family home to a terraced house to temporary accommodation. Why should temporary housing be held to a different standard?” he says. “These units are built quickly and cost-effectively in our Modular factory, transported to where they are needed most, connected to services and ready to be lived in within a matter of hours – and when you need them somewhere else, you can easily relocate them.”

Beattie Passive recently underwent a significant factory expansion and has moved into an 80,000m2 factory to ramp up delivery of their full range of modular homes.

Beattie says, “We’ve recently upscaled our operation into a much bigger factory. We have seen a huge increase in demand for these homes in the face of COVID-19, and as a result, have greatly ramped up production of our Haus4 units. These include studios, one and two-person individual units, as well as blocks of flats. These are built completely off-site and delivered to where they are needed, where they can stay for a day or 100 years. All zero carbon, with energy performance at 110%, built by young people.”

Talking with Beattie, something that shines through is his commitment to helping young people build a future for themselves.

“I am passionate about skills development and training. With a growing skills crisis in construction, we need to bring people into the industry who have no previous experience in construction and we are training a whole new generation – young people pick it up really quickly. We have currently got over 40 young trainees in our new modular factory alongside experienced carpenters, and we are teaching them multiple trades so that they have the skills to work on any part of a home. It’s a simple system that delivers the highest quality. From day one they are developing vital skills and building the optimum in building performance – Passivhaus!”

To further these goals, Beattie is now seeking to work with more local authorities as his business grows.

“There is a great opportunity to partner with Housing Associations and Councils. Across the UK we have a situation of growing unemployment, and with Coronavirus and local lockdowns starting to take effect, that’s just going to grow. Partnering with Housing Associations and Councils provides the opportunity to not only increase the delivery of high quality, Passivhaus homes but also change the way we build and get these youngsters employed,” he says. “We’ve just done a piece of work that shows if you build locally and employ young people, you can really make a massive difference to the local economy. Setting up a local factory to the housing site, manufacturing the units using local suppliers and employing local people has significant economic and social benefits for the local economy. An example of a recent development shows that from a £5 million capital investment, £9.2million of social-economic value can be realised. For every £1 spent on locally constructed homes, £2.84 is put back into the local economy. This shows that doing things locally can lead to a massive change. We need to revisit how we build homes, and the zero-carbon agenda is going to be huge for this.”

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