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More architects needed for modular housing push

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Modular construction company nHouse, headed by architect Richard Hywel Evans, has announced plans to contract work out to more architecture practices

Hywel Evans, also founding director of London-based architecture practice Studio RHE, told the AJ that nHouse was hoping to expand the range of architects it works with.

Launched at MIPIM 2017, nHouse aims to complete its three-bedroom prototype next month and showcase it when the Cannes property festival returns this spring.

‘We had a fantastic reception at MIPIM last year,’ said Hywel Evans. ‘We had 300 enquiries and we now have 150 orders, some for single homes, some in the 30-50 homes bracket.’

He said nHouse was now looking to work with more practices. ‘It is our intention to get other architects to design other nHouses. We have a three-bed, we’re looking for a two-bed, a studio and a small block of flats and we’ll get other [practices] involved.

‘I am looking forward to adding to our portfolio – we will be contracting work out. We have been talking to interested people and we can provide guidance and skills.’

We will be contracting work out

Hywel Evans designed the three-bed modular home, which can be produced in a factory and ordered as a single unit or a batch of 100 or more. His nHouse features 100 sq m of floor space, large windows, solar roofing, rainwater harvesting and futuristic elements such as a drone landing pad and smart mirrors.

The concept was crowdfunded, with more than 700 investors contributing between £10 and £150,000 each. Up to 1,000 homes a year could be built in the nHouse factory.

This is part of a wider trend towards offsite manufacturing in the residential sector. Housebuilding giant Berkeley Group could begin construction of a 1,000-home-per-annum modular building factory this year.

Hywel Evans said architects needed to ‘embrace’ rather than fear the onset of offsite construction.

‘Producing a repeatable unit requires you to take into account how the design can work in different locations, and how it can be made more timeless,’ he said. ‘Having a carefully considered concept design is important and can open doors.’

Berkeley expects its application for the pre-fab plant in Gravesham, Kent, to be heard by the council over the next couple of months.

‘The site was acquired from the HCA and a planning application has been submitted for a 160,000ft2 facility,’ said a recent statement.

A spokesman added: ‘While the speed of production and the impact on skills and labour are important factors, our real driver is the quality we can achieve with modular housing.’

Will Wimshurst, director at Wimshurst Pelleriti, told the AJ last year that there would remain a key role for architects in modular housing projects of the future.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    Having worked in what was then called volumetric construction on 2-storey building regulation compliant homes (3 ‘modular’ sections), in the early 1990s, there is most definitely a role for architects. To achieve the ‘Firmness’, ‘Commodity’ and ‘Delight’, there are some very ‘naff’ examples by non-architects :-)

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