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Competition: PLACE modular homes, London

PLACE Ladywell by RSHP
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London’s councils are inviting innovative bids to deliver an ambitious series of demountable modular homes for homeless families across the capital

The team chosen for the £9-£75 million commission will design and deliver a range of new ‘precision-manufactured,’ affordable and relocatable dwellings for meanwhile use sites throughout London.

The project – backed by the not-for-profit modular housing company Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise (PLACE) – will deliver 200 new homes in a pilot phase planned to arrive on site by 2021. The tender comes two years after Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners completed a 24-unit demountable modular housing scheme, dubbed PLACE Ladywell (pictured), in Lewisham.

PLACE director Mark Baigent said: ‘Our aim is to challenge and inspire the housing design and construction industry to create an innovative and high-quality product to meet London’s opportunities and needs head-on.

‘We want to procure attractive and spacious factory-built homes that can be easily moved from site to site around London. We look forward to sharing our vision and seeing what the rapidly growing modular market can offer.’

James Murray, deputy mayor for housing and residential development, said: ‘Solving the housing crisis in London means everyone will have to play their part – and, crucially, making use of all the land we have for homes, including sites that might otherwise go unused for several years.

‘PLACE is an exciting example of London boroughs working together with an innovative approach to help families in need of temporary accommodation, and the Mayor is pleased to support the project with his affordable homes programme’s Innovation Fund.’

Homelessness in London has rapidly increased since 2010, leaving 54,300 households currently living in temporary accommodation of which nearly 44,000 are families with children.

PLACE was founded earlier this year by London Councils – a cross-party coalition representing all 32 London boroughs and the City of London – to pioneer a new generation of high-quality, temporary family homes built to permanent housing specifications.

The project, supported with a £11 million grant from the Greater London Authority, will see around 200 homes delivered in a pilot phase hosted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The programme aims to create a new housing system which can be quickly and easily dismounted using lorries and arranged in schemes of around 20 units on urban sites awaiting other long-term uses.

The initial homes will be 75 per cent 2-bedroom and 25 per cent 3-bedroom split with later phases expected to include single unit homes and modular housing for existing buildings.

Applications are invited from a range of suppliers including collaborations between architects and manufacturers. Bids will be evaluated 70 per cent on quality and 30 per cent on cost.

The deadline for applications is midday on 15 August.

How to apply

Visit the competition website and view the contract notice for more information

Contact details

Andrew Shorter
Mulberry Place
E14 2BG

Tel: +44 2073644752
Email: procurement@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Q&A with Mark Baigent, PLACE director

Mark Baigent

Why have you launched a tender to design and deliver new modular and demountable family homes?

With more than 54,300 London households living in temporary accommodation, we face a homelessness crisis that demands new ideas and innovation. While permanent new homes are the priority, some sites in the capital are only available for a limited time until other developments take place, such as Crossrail 2 and other major regeneration projects. Our vision is to use these ‘meanwhile’ sites to house homeless families, then move the homes onto other sites, with the homes moving up to four times over forty years. We have set up a publicly owned company to buy these homes and a tender in line with European public procurement rules is needed to select the best product from the rapidly growing global modular housing market.

What is your vision for the new temporary housing solutions?

‘Meanwhile’ sites can be of varying sizes: PLACE Ltd is interested in sites which have the potential to hold a minimum of 20 units while meeting the Mayor of London’s Housing Design Guide space standards. Some of the sites are likely to be close to railway lines or other non-residential uses, so sound insulation will be higher than building regulation requirements. The toughest design challenge will be meeting the space standards with modules that can be quickly and easily dismounted, moved on the back of a lorry and reassembled, while the joins and connections are virtually invisible to the people living in them. Sustainability of materials, manufacturing processes, and of the completed homes are all important.

What sort of architects, designers and manufacturers are you hoping will apply?

We want a broad range of respondents. This is an innovative project and we are keen to see new solutions to tackle the problem we have identified – this could be from more established companies or new entrants with a good idea. We are open to joint bids from architects and manufacturers – we are not being prescriptive about who should apply – we want to spread the net widely. We have a thorough selection process to arrive at the best bid. Design and build quality will be a significant consideration in this, with quality factors scoring 70% and price 30%.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

At this stage we are focused on modular family homes. Longer term, the company could broaden its scope to include temporary housing for single homeless people, including rough sleepers. We could also explore other kinds of site opportunities, such as modular additions to existing buildings (eg above retail, commercial, educational or health facilities). It is also possible that specific ‘meanwhile’ sites will require a unique design approach (for example, if non-residential uses were required on the ground floor) for which an additional design competition would be needed.

Are there any other recent modular temporary housing projects you have been impressed by?

We have taken a close interest in recent projects in London, Brighton, Hamburg, Vancouver and beyond – although we don’t want to influence the procurement process by naming specific examples. This is an exciting and rapidly growing market and we want to demonstrate how these opportunities and possibilities can be taken to the next level. We are confident that architects and manufacturers will be inspired to apply themselves to delivering this innovative project, creating new solutions to the problems of homelessness in major world cities such as London.

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