Adaptable, modular ‘cognitive’ homes could form a solution to the UK’s housing crisis, according to a vision outlined by Tata Steel and HTA Design
A consultative paper, Neighbourhoods of the Future, published by the Agile Ageing Alliance, proposes constructing ‘homes for life’ that would remove the need to ‘move or improve’.
HTA chief executive Simon Bayliss said in the report that a ‘chronic housing shortage’ had been ‘exacerbated by the building of the wrong sort of houses to suit the way we live’.
The practice, which has studios in London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol, has worked with Tata on a proof-of-concept structural design, which Bayliss says will ‘meet the needs of modern consumers’.
Tata Steel UK chief executive Bimlendra Jha said: ‘The basis of our approach is to employ a state-of-the-art agile steel frame to support fully spanning elements such as wall infill panels and floors.
‘This, in turn, will afford a great deal of flexibility to the designer. The improved load-bearing capacity of the frame, and the positioning of the load-bearing elements out to the external faces, significantly frees up the internal space, and aids the future adaptability of the dwelling.’
Bayliss added: ‘The design is a simple structural steel frame, which will allow homes to be constructed very quickly using pre-manufactured components. The structure is flexible and will create the potential for open-plan spaces. Designed to be integrated with any number of materials, the new system allows the walls to be lightweight and easily adaptable during the building’s life.’
Matt Cooper, a specialist in modern methods of construction (MMC) at Arup Group, said new ways of building could ‘alleviate our housing shortage’ and ‘change the way housing is delivered’.
‘With adaptable and agile regeneration capabilities built in by design, MMC could be the game changer,’ he said. ‘Within the next 10 to 20 years, it may not only halt the downward spiral in our housing market but act as the catalyst for a new social economy.’
Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Care for Older People, Richard Best, said there were ‘massive opportunities’ to create ‘homes for everyone’.
’Government – local and central – stands to gain from incentivising and supporting a major growth in this fledgeling sector, not least in collaboration with housing associations,’ the cross-bench peer said.
’But the tipping point – when “rightsizing” becomes the norm for those in their 60s and 70s – will arrive when a new generation of entrepreneurs takes up the challenge. A market that is worth over £6 billion a year beckons.’
Other companies and individuals working on the Tata concept included Manchester-based We Mapout; London’s Soho+Co with Forge Design; Royal College of Art director Jeremy Myerson; Consequential Robotics chief executive Sebastian Conran; and Paul Priestman, chairman of design consultancy PriestmanGoode.
Earlier this year, a high-profile group of experts brought together in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire said more than 3 million social homes should be built in England over the next 20 years.