Senior housing architects hit out at government drive
Writing in Housing Today, Luke O’Donovan reports that at a recent debate on the quality of new homes, architect Paul Karakusevic, of Karakusevic Carson Architects, described most volumetric modular homes – ones that are fully constructed offsite – as a “blight” on their locations. Similarly, Cany Ash, of architect Ash Sakula, said the government’s ever increasing rhetoric around offsite build was a “religion” which ignored the complexity of place-making.
McVeigh appoints Farmer
The comments come in the week that government agency Homes England invested £30m in volumetric modular builder Ilke Homes and after housing minister Esther McVey announced the appointment of consultant Mark Farmer as the government’s modern methods of construction (MMC) champion. Famer will be tasked with developing plans, announced last month by McVey, for a “construction corridor” in the north focused on MMC, generating £40bn of output a year and employing 80,000 people.
But Ash and Karakusevic said the drive for ever-increasing use of MMC was misplaced. Karakusevic, describing the majority of Build to Rent housing, much of which uses MMC, as an “absolute abomination”, added: “Most modular housing and volumetric construction I have witnessed in the UK is also crude, overscaled and a complete blight on the city.”
‘Humanise’ UK Built Environment
At the same event Ash said architects should “resist the sirens of offsite solutions” and “put it back in its place” as part of a drive to humanise the UK’s built environment. “The government has a shorter and shorter attention span and this innovative stuff seems to make them happy,” she said. “It makes a lot of other middlemen very happy. It just does not take in the complexity of building places. It’s like a religion.”
Innovate for Variation
She also criticised many offsite solutions for appearing to offer repetition, when technology should instead be being used to offer increased variation to suit families and households with differing needs.
MMC ‘an answer to poor design’
Proponents of offsite and modular housing say the idea that homes built using modern methods are poorly designed is a hangover from a previous era of offsite construction. Newly-appointed MMC champion Mark Farmer has previously made the case that the existing construction industry will lack the skills to meet the demand for homes without widespread adoption of factory methods, and the government says MMC can be part of the answer to poor housing design.
Announcing the investment in Ilke Homes, Esther McVey said: “It’s vital we invest in new technology to get Britain building. Homes built using modern methods can be of higher quality, greener and built to last.”
Market ‘rigged’ in favour of Volume Housebuilders
Ash and Karakusevic were speaking at an event entitled British Housing: The Crude the Bad and the Ugly, put on by architect Fourthspace in London. Karakusevic also used the event to hit out at volume housebuilders, whom he said benefitted from a “whole market [which] is rigged in their favour.”
DfMA Can Help
Ash & Karakusevic certainly ‘tell it like it is’, but apparently overlook the value of DfMA - Design for Manufacture & Assembly. Taking this approach to your project means engaging with the whole team – including non-volumetric ‘Offsite Manufacturers’ - responsible for delivery on time and within budget. It requires a systematic, solution driven approach which brings discipline to the process, sharing information and communications. All good first steps to combatting e-mail overload.
Partnering for Progress
All of this entails a shift in thinking to that already practiced available by established ‘Off-Site’ manufacturers. It can be quickly and easily incorporated into procedures and processes of building and development. Better still, you can make partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all round benefits.
Greater Speed, Accuracy, Quality and Lower Costs
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers will deliver these. The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something we have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.