Modular construction: the Goldman Sachs effect

Top Hot modular homes

The investment bank’s decision to put £75m into TopHat could signal changes to come for the whole housebuilding industry

There’s probably no bigger name in global finance than Goldman Sachs. Infamously characterised in by Rolling Stone in 2009 as the “great vampire squid” sucking money from the system of global capitalism, in many people’s minds the $36bn-turnover investment bank is not just a big player in big capital: it is big capital.

Hence when Goldman Sachs decided last month to put £75m in to a modular housing manufacturer – TopHat – that has no finished schemes and didn’t even exist three years ago, it made quite a few waves.

This is in part because of the message it sends about modern methods of construction, which until recently was regarded as the preserve of ideologues and enthusiasts – and of which modular construction is the most radical form. Modular housing, also called volumetric construction, is where three-dimensional homes or modules are built in a factory and shipped to site fully made, and so far accounts for just a tiny proportion of homes built.

TopHat, which is now working on its first exemplar scheme in Kent, is so far giving little away about how far Goldman Sachs’ money will take the business. Others in the sector have set up modular facilities for just a few million pounds, but the size of the investment indicates Goldman Sachs believes there is potential for it to scale into a major player in UK housing.

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