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Report exposes full extent of defects at RSHP’s Oxley Woods

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A landmark housing scheme utilising modern methods of construction (MMC) and designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is suffering serious and ongoing water leakage problems, a new report claims

According to the report on the Oxley Woods development in Milton Keynes – which was completed in 2007 and was part of the last government’s Design for Manufacture competition – many homes at the 122-home estate are suffering from water ingress, which is causing supporting timbers, balconies, roofs, window junctions and the boarding and frame behind cladding to rot.

The report, produced by consultant GHPC and commissioned by the scheme’s housing developer, Taylor Wimpey, follows the lodging of claims with the scheme’s insurer the National House Building Council (NHBC) by 16 Oxley Woods residents.

The revelations will raise questions over RSHP’s new wave of modular housing schemes. The practice is planning to bring the prefabricated timber construction techniques used at Oxley Woods to London, with developments proposed for Newham and for a YMCA development at Merton, though these ‘Mark II’ schemes are understood to have improved on the construction method used at Oxley Woods.

Described by judges as a ‘thorough-going attempt at innovation ‘Oxley Woods was awarded the Manser Medal in 2008, after it saw off competition from the Stirling Prize-winning Accordia, Gianni Botsford’s Garden Apartment, Simon Condor’s Halligan House, and a private house by Northern Ireland-based Twenty Two Over Seven.

But the RIBA say the raft of problems at the estate will not affect the scheme’s accolade. RIBA head of awards Tony Chapman, said: ‘Oxley Woods is an extremely important example of modular construction and was an innovative and radical step away from the traditional domestic building site.

‘It is not unusual for even the most well-designed buildings to experience maintenance and construction issues during their lifetime; RIBA has never rescinded an award for these reasons.’

Read more here.


Statement from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

‘This was a design and build project with Taylor Wimpey and Wood Newton responsible for the final detailed design and implementation from a Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners (RSHP) concept design. There have been some issues with the final design details with water ingress in some of the houses on the scheme. We understand that these are being addressed by Taylor Wimpey and modifications have been made to some windows and seals.

‘The design of Oxley Woods was inspected and approved by the NHBC and is under their guarantee. The residents are very supportive of the design concept and it is disappointing that these issues have materialised in the built product. We know that the residents are keen to commission their own independent study and we will support them where we can. Taylor Wimpey has not issued the report to RSHP, and therefore we are not in a position to comment on its contents, but we understand it states the issues are fully resolvable.

‘The Homeshell and Y:Cube concepts are sound and Insulshell (the panel manufacturers) have been developing their product in the intervening years. Y:Cube is a volumetric system and both are very different in terms of construction and design to that used at Oxley Woods.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Not enough information, perhaps due to ongoing responsibility issues, but it's important to know whether it's to do with site supervision, whether there's a material or systems failure involved - or whether it's down to a combination of factors.
    Uncertainty as to the cause could result in avoidable disruption of efforts to speed up the provision of value-for-money housing when it's desperately needed.

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