HKR Architects opens Off-Site Construction Summit at London Build Expo 2017
Geoff Brocklehurst, Director at HKR Architects opened the Off-Site Construction Summit at London Build Expo 2017. It was standing room only at the summit to hear Geoff speak about typology and technology, Government policy and new thinking in off-site to meet the needs of today’s diverse London.
Geoff started with an abridged HKR company profile and subsequent track record for delivering significant residential led mixed-use projects nationally and internationally, with around 3,000 units using MMCs, including volumetric methodologies. He highlighted that HKR is one of a small number of practices with the working knowledge and practical experience to develop deliverable modular solutions, highlighting projects such as Rockbrook development in Dublin which was completed in 2009 and included 900 apartments containing about 3,200 modular units, which were delivered using full volumetric modular methodology.
His presentation explored a potted history of UK housing solutions by period and typology, ranging from the suburban ‘two up two down’, post war clearance of the Slums and the emergence of ‘affordable housing’ providers such as Peabody, gallery accessed typology synonymous with the 1960’s and homes built to the Parker Morris standard, leading to how policy changes over the last 20 years have contributed towards our current housing crisis and the debate on micro apartments as a partial solution.
Geoff went on to discuss current ‘guidance’ on design standards and the challenges faced today delivering homes that are affordable and the negative reaction to smaller ‘micro’ apartments. Using the Pocket model as an example, Geoff discussed HKR’s involvement as architects in three of their recent modular developments including Juxon Street and Sail Street in Lambeth and demonstrated how the 38sq. m. apartments on those particular infill sites in Lambeth have provided much needed affordable homes to Londoners.
Choice is a key driver in the challenges faced today. Using a fast food burger menu, Geoff illustrated how the offer of different levels of product can generate broader housing solutions to meet the actual needs of Londoners looking for a step on the property ladder. With a menu that offers varying cost, size and added-extras for different burgers a customer can find an option they can afford which suits their taste. If they are unable to afford the top of the range luxury mega-super-burger they can purchase a more humble option and yet they still get to eat a burger!
Micro apartments are offering today’s society a foot on the housing ladder and an opportunity of a place to call their own. These apartments won’t solve the housing crisis but can be a valuable part of the housing solution. What is bad with smaller? Off-site construction is enabling these smaller units to be delivered quicker and, in controlled factory environments and enabling smaller infill sites to be developed for housing, which otherwise may not have happened.
The presentation finished by looking at trends going forward. Geoff discussed that the GLA recently commented (of one of HKR’s current designs) that it was great to see a resurgence of the gallery access apartments as a typology which delivers excellent live-ability. The company is also looking into high-density-low-rise modular terraced houses and co-living accommodation using off-site construction.
London Build 2017, now in its third year, is the UK’s largest construction expo dedicated entirely to opportunities in London and the South of England. London Build is attended by thousands of ‘movers & shakers’ in the UK’s construction industry from: contractors, developers, government, architects, solution providers and more.
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