Two University of Sheffield School of Architecture graduate students have been shortlisted for the Isover Multi-comfort House Student Design Competition, a two stage international competition sponsored by French insulation company Saint-Gobain Isover. The Nottingham Trent river basin was chosen as this year’s competition site, with competitors looking at ways to “explore a new paradigm of sustainable post-industrial regeneration. The focus of the project is the development of a sustainable neighbourhood, providing accommodation for 12-15 families plus essential services to ensure an effective work-life balance.” First year PhD candidate Jordan Lloyd and Eric Chancellor, who is currently undertaking MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies teamed up with Nottingham based historian and design graduate Chris Matthews to design a scheme that employs a fundamentally different development mechanism for house building.
The Trent Bank proposal is a design-led framework that centres on self-provision as a sustainable development and procurement model for new neighbourhoods. It proposes that the first move should be to convert an existing riverside depot into a self-build factory/academy. The community factory then becomes the engine which equips a community of ordinary people to procure and build their own user-made neighbourhood, which can be more affordable, more sustainable and more suited to their needs than a market-led development.
This approach is influenced by the principles set out in A Right to Build, a joint research project between Sheffield School of Architecture and London-based practice Architecture 00:/. In collaboration with 00:/’s Alastair Parvin, also a former Sheffield student and author of A Right to Build, the team have developed a proposal which uses the WikiHouse system: an open source construction system developed by 00:/ and published under a Creative Commons license. The WikiHouse system allows non-professionals without formal training or skills to design, share and download 3D models for houses, the parts for which can be cut from standard 18mm plywood sheets using an automated CNC milling process. The houses can then be quickly and easily assembled with no need for formal training or power tools; not unlike an IKEA kit.
The development allows for a low density, but high intensity programme of start-up businesses and community amenities, with transient commercial use – taking advantage of a piece of planning legislation called a Local Development Order (LDO). The scheme also addresses numerous infrastructural issues in the surrounding area and would viably provide a better link between the basin site and the city centre, located less than a mile away, as well as considerably improving the water’s edge. The currently underused river inlet would be reconfigured into the UK’s largest mooring and associated facilities provided for river boats, with large tracts of the space being used to host city-wide events such as open air concerts, carnivals and large markets.
The ease of WikiHouse’s construction with an emphasis on low skill threshold makes it the perfect housing technology for self providers. Environmental simulations using Isover’s premium insulation exceeds the organisers’ technical requirements, whilst the product would provide lasting value for self-provided home owners. Those owners, liberated from the costs and risks of the traditional planning process, and motivated by their desire to reduce heating costs during the life of the building, would be able to specify better performance building fabric, as well as being able to adapt and improve their home in the future whenever they need to.
The national stage of the competition is being judged at the 2012 Ecobuild at ExCel London on March 21st at 3 pm, 2012 at stand N230.