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Everyone should have a place to call home

A Q&A with Mark Powell, Managing Director, EDAROTH

By Prospect Team  

Mark Powell, EDAROTH Managing Director

This article was produced in association with EDAROTH

What is EDAROTH?

EDAROTH captures our belief that “Everybody Deserves A Roof Over Their Head,” and aims to reimagine how social housing is delivered across the country.

This is something very new for Atkins. Why now?

Well, it stemmed from a meeting that one of our senior executives had with a government official, where they asked “isn’t there something a giant engineering group could do to help with the housing challenge?”

We thought that while it is slightly outside pure engineering, it isn’t a challenge that we should shy away from. And so a team of people has been built to take to local authorities, to public sector landowners, something that will help to replenish the stock of social affordable housing.

How far along is the process?

We’re launching because we have built houses for a local authority. And that is a huge step. That means we have a test of the concept and a product in the marketplace that our client is delighted with. And so at this point, it’s right for us to go public.

What do you see as the greatest challenges in housing today?

One great challenge for many who are already delivering homes is to do so in an increasingly environmentally conscious manner. Another is that there’s lots of talk about social housing market issues, but very few such homes being constructed. And so a focus has to be on trying to open up the flow of homes.

Our product could actually be delivered into any of the housing sectors. But what we’ve done at the moment is said “no, we’re going to focus in this social affordable sector, because that’s where the shortfall in housing provision exists.” That meant we needed to look at the best way of delivering that solution.

The first EDAROTH homes are being built using off-site manufacturing methods. Why have you adopted this approach? And will we start to see more of it?

I don’t think it’s a question of “if” any longer. I do think it’s a question of “when.” And I think we’ll see a consolidation in what is occurring in the off- site manufacturing space.

We are willing to share with one another details about what we’re doing, so that will help all of us, including clients, be confident that the details work well and that will allow us to increase speed on production. Because there is a demand for what’s being produced.

In your new white paper, published to coincide with the launch, you focus on unlocking brownfield land. Can you expand on that?

Yes, we wanted to underpin our decisions with data wherever we could, and the data suggested that while there was a cost associated with remediating brownfield sites, to varying degrees central government was willing to provide funds, which helps level the playing field. And the real beauty of those sites is that they’re already locations where there is strong infrastructure, transport, schools. It’s a great way of releasing new economic and social value both to the local community, but also to the local authority.

How can you work with local and central government to help unlock under-utilised land to deliver housing?

Well, we’re constantly working with numerous local authorities, because that’s the nature of the Atkins business and that gives us a platform for EDAROTH, and virtually every local authority and public sector landowner TfL, for example, National Grid, they are all extremely interested in what we do, which is fantastic. And our connections into central government go right to the most senior levels, and they are very supportive of this EDAROTH subsidiary that’s been created. So we’ll be leveraging those connections.

We need to work in close alignment with them and respond to the opportunities that they create, and look for their support in encouraging growth or innovative solutions to the challenge.

Who can you learn from?

Well my view is that we learn from everybody. We work a bit like magpies. So we have looked around the world—because this is a global business—to see what other people are doing. We’ve looked very closely at what’s going on in China, Europe and the US to understand what knowledge people are willing to share with us. And actually, people are very generous with what they know. And that then extends into back into our own business.

What was your philosophy launching EDAROTH?

One of the things that I say to everybody is that if you wouldn’t live in one of these homes, then we’re letting ourselves, and the people that we’re trying to help, down. It is incredibly important that the quality of the environments we’re creating gives people confidence that they can build for themselves a better life. That’s central to our ambition.

What is the ultimate ambition?

The delivery of homes that people are proud to live in.

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