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Peabody winches in 'new era' housing modules

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Portakabin subsidiary Yorkon began craning into position 30 one- and two- bed flats it manufactured for the Peabody Trust in Shoreditch, East London, this week.

The five-storey scheme, drawn up by architect Cartwright Pickard for a brownfield corner site off Murray Grove in Hackney borough, is being closely monitored by Peabody so it can consider replication and consequent design savings, which fits into Egan thinking. The £2.2 million steel- framed scheme's hour-by-hour progress can be viewed on a website, thanks to on-site cameras, at www.webcam.yorkon.com

Peabody development director Dickon Robinson said he was tired of the construction industry's three main problems of cost, timeliness and disruption, and is attempting to pioneer modular housing for low-income renters. He told the aj that Peabody, with Cartwright Pickard, is in the last two in a competition for a a 250-dwelling scheme on a large Islington site, and is considering going completely over to this form of construction.

The Murray Grove scheme features deck-access to three apartments at a time, balconies and exterior terracotta tiling as a rainscreen which is clipped into place. Filigree walkways are supported by stainless-steel bracing, and the building has been designed to be low-maintenance with a high energy-efficiency rating - the flats are sealed and windows have gas between the panes for extra insulation. The scheme has a courtyard to the rear, and a stairway entrance drum clad in perforated anodised- silver aluminium to be transparent by night and 'shimmer' by day.

The modules are being slotted in this week and next after transfer by road from Yorkon's factory in York, with final handover in August. The only car parking is three spaces for disabled drivers, with facilities for cycle storage, after planners were convinced about the proximity of good local public transport links.

Ove Arup is forming a consortium to invest in regional factories for modular houses. Research called 'Rethinking Housing' has shown that a 5000m2 factory with 50 builders could make 500 homes a year for between £3 million and 5 million. Arup has designed a luxury-house prototype and is looking at social homes.

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