‘Noddy Box” alternative
Conceived as an alternative to the “Noddy boxes” offered by many volume housebuilders, developers Urban Splash teamed up with architects ShedKM in an
effort to combine the cost benefits of modular construction with the flexibility offered by architect-designed properties.
Termed simply “House”, residents were invited to plan the layouts of these new homes in Manchester as part of a pioneering housing project.
Each house looks the same from the outside, but the internal layouts range greatly. The company believes House offers a model approach to
residential development in cities.
Choice of Layouts
Residents can choose between open-plan or more traditional room-based layouts, specify the number of bedrooms, and select whether living rooms are upstairs
"House is born from our desire to create something for customers who want to live in well-designed homes and stay in the city centre," said Urban Splash
chairman Tom Bloxham.
"We noticed that within UK cities there is a real lack of diversity in terms of new residential stock, and our traditional customers would ultimately
get older, richer and end up moving to Victorian and Georgian terraces in the suburbs," explained Bloxham. "’House’ is our way of offering them something
in the city."
Factory Built Timber Frame ‘Shells’
The first 26 completed houses have been installed alongside the canal in New Islington, and the final 17 are about to be delivered. Each one was
prefabricated in a factory as a series of timber-framed shells with fixed positions for kitchens and bathrooms.
Modules need Crane Lift
Once the modules have been transported to site, they are craned into position. Partition walls are added later, in accordance with the layouts selected
by each of the 43 buyers.
"At prices less per square foot than city-centre flats, lower maintenance costs than old Victorian houses or blocks of flats, big floorplates,
high ceilings and huge windows, they have already been well received," said Bloxham.
"This concept has been a long time in the making and we believe that it is a game-changer to tackle the current housing shortage this country is facing,"
added ShedKM director Ian Killick."They also happen to be homes that people are proud to live in,".
All 43 homes share an exterior of grey panelling, metal-clad pitched roofs and black-framed bay windows. They range from two to three storeys in height,
allowing for between one and five bedrooms, and each offer a balcony. Other features include highs ceilings, car parking and private gardens.
New Schemes Already in Hand
With the first phase of New Islington housing complete, the ShedKM and Urban Splash team is preparing a planning application for a second phase on an
adjacent site. A House development is also planned for Irwell in Salford, on the outskirts of the city.
So What Is ‘New’?
Volumetric housing, similar to this, was produced at least as far back as the 1970’s
Pre-fabrication has likewise been used to manufacture building elements seemingly for ever.
Materials & components more usually found in industrial, as well as agricultural, projects have been used in all types and sizes of residential development.
Working with clients to determine floor layouts and other design elements is par for the course.
What is possibly different is creating fixed envelopes and then allowing other people to decide how they want to plan and layout the internal floor space.
There is, of course, the not inconsiderable questions of having sufficient land to be able to replicate a standard ‘envelope’ and working with
local planners who will accept the design for this.
Addressing the Variables
‘Planning’ generally requires that local design styles, if any, are observed. This places extra demands on such projects, often requiring individual
modelling and façade treatments to meet such criteria. This is something that timber frame structure are eminently suited to provide, but it does place
extra burdens and challenges on the small number of people with the knowledge and experience to do this. Furthermore, unless part of some comprehensive
re-development, which seems unlikely, most of the work will need to be quite individualised and small scale.
Prefabrication Is Key
Factory prefabrication of elements like walls and floors can always be considered for OSM (Off-Site-Manufacture). There is also little doubt that
integrating the use of more components that are produced off-site under factory controlled conditions, can go a long way to helping to prevent accidents
on-site. This includes the availability of carefully selected complimentary components and methods to speed up work on site as well as providing unusual
and hard to find environmentally sound, eco-friendly, sustainable and complimentary building products and components that facilitate merging with local
Your Partner in Development
Whether you are an architect, builder or private client, almost certainly you will (at least soon) be aware that building sites can be very dangerous places.
Working with our teams we believe will help you to provide safer sites as well as better value and more readily marketable homes. Our specialist services
and CUSTOM homes division deliver best value and protect the interests of land owners, house-builder developers, professionals and private individuals
seeking to build their dream home. Our off-site construction systems also reduce the amount of material that gets wasted on site, helping to avoid land fill,
hazardous waste separation and handling, They also deliver better value for you and your customers.
PLEASE CONTACT US FOR AN INFORMAL DISCUSSION AS TO HOW WE MIGHT WORK TOGETHER
Call us to arrange a factory visit and discuss your ideas and needs with our in-house team of professionals for your next project. You’ll be glad you did!