Renewable energy specialist WElink is set to enter the UK housing market by building 8,000 zero-carbon homes, after signing a £1.1bn strategic agreement with China’s state-owned National Building Materials Group (NBMG).
This will be the first foray into the UK housing market for WElink, which is headquartered in Hong Kong but has offices and operations in the UK, Ireland, Italy, and Spain as well as Hong Hong. The company has expertise in developing solar power facilities and energy efficiency programmes.
The two companies are entering the UK housebuilding market after a previous collaboration to build houses in Chile and Spain, and are working together in Croatia where a 4,000-unit development will shortly be starting on site.
In the UK the companies aim to deliver 4,000 units before 2018, and a further 4,000 units will follow with “an appetite to accelerate further developments”.
Aj Rahman, chairman of WElink, told Construction Manager that this is an ideal time to enter the UK market, as there is such a high demand for housing: “Housing is very topical. Clearly there is a big market opportunity and someone has to fill the gap in the market with a new way of thinking. Our solution has the engineering and scale of thinking to have great potential.”
WElink’s zero-carbon houses will be constructed using the Barcelona Housing System (BHS), a pre-engineered construction system that has been designed by architectural practice Cesar Martinell & Associates. The low-energy homes will also feature roof-top solar, waste-to-energy and power storage technologies.
Barry O’Neill, chief executive, Welink
The houses will be built with a target of zero water usage and zero waste in factories that themselves will be built near to the housing sites, which WElink says it is currently in the process of purchasing.
Rahman told CM: “We are in the process of acquiring sites, with several partners and investors. The first of these already has planning permission. We will be making announcements in the near future when these sites are fully secured.”
WElink will be acting as the main contractor for the building of both the factories and the assembly of the housing units, with NBMG providing “engineering, financial and strategic support”.
In a press release, Barry O’Neill, chief executive of Welink, said: “Given the scalability of our BHS solution and the near zero energy buildings that are constructed in combination with the engineering, financial and strategic support of our Chinese partners, we believe we can expand rapidly to fulfil the appetite for the development of affordable housing in the UK.”
Song Zhiping, chairman of CNBM added: “WElink has been our trusted partner for the last five years and we are delighted to sign this strategic framework as a milestone for our rapid expansion in the UK and internationally in renewable energy and affordable housing.”
Along with the 8,000 proposed dwellings, which are expected to cost £800m to build, an additional £300m will be invested to deploy 130MW of solar panels in the UK during 2016 in collaboration with Somerset-based British Solar Renewables.