MPs say modular homes will over heat

modular homes

MPs say modular homes will over heat

On Wednesday Architects’ Journal (AJ) ran a story with the headline “Stop funding ‘hothouse’ modular homes, MPs tell government” following a statement in a report by the Environmental Audit Committee (paragraph 9), which was looking at how the nation should respond to prolonged heatwaves.

This led to us to tweeting, expressing our anger and how we’d expect AJ to have published a much more balanced story – we were given the opportunity to respond and a follow up article was published yesterday – Backlash over MPs’ ‘knee-jerk’ call to stop cash for modular homes

Although Ric was quoted in the article (thank you Ella/AJ!), we thought we’d share our full response:

 

Whether or not a home is modular has nothing to do with whether it can over-heat. Traditionally built on-site constructed homes can over-heat just as easily. Modular is only a construction technique. It does not prescribe the materials that are used, the design form, or the ventilation strategy – what actually contributes to the building performance.

Although most modular homes tend to be timber frame and therefore lightweight, they can be constructed using pre-cast concrete or include thermal mass in the form of phase change materials. It is important to also understand that thermal mass isn’t always the holy grail for ensuring buildings remain cool, it has as much to do with external shading and the ventilation strategy for removing any heat gains. Window opening sizes (and to multiple aspects) is considerably more important than the presence of thermal mass. In some instances thermal mass can actually make the situation worse. For example, if there is solar gain and windows are left closed all day, when the occupants return, it can take an extremely long period for all the mass, and hence the space, to cool back down.

There is a real lack of understanding between the different terminology (even in the design and construction sector) that is used to describe modern methods to build homes, such as modular, prefabrication, standardisation, SIPs, Custom Build, MMC, etc – none of these mean the same things, yet they’re often used inappropriately.

It is extremely disappointing that MPs can make what seems to be knee-jerk statements on a subject that they clearly have no real understanding about.

I actually believe the reverse is necessary – I feel more funding has to be put into modular home design and construction, particularly into Research & Development and supporting the smaller home manufacturers (who are actually already doing it) – to ensure very high quality and performing homes are also much more sustainable and affordable.

 

  • Thanks also to Simon Wyatt at Cundall for his technical contribution.

 

a name change

a name change

Why? It’s not a particularly interesting story – it’s one of the usual legal challenges that crop up from time-to-time where corporates with more legal clout are able to put pressure on smaller companies. Fair play though, they (and you can probably guess who) owned the registered name under a service category we also operated under (and apparently the “e” in our (old) name doesn’t make a difference – as both names sound the same), so there’s potential for customers to be confused.

So, the only real option was to change our name… and we’re looking better for it!

It’s also presented a great opportunity to refine our range of designs.

The building designs grew organically, from our original “dwelle.ing” through to a number of variations, all directly in response to what our clients were asking for.

We created a 2-bedroom version by doubling-up the structure, then a larger “lifetime” design (which won the British Home Awards) and a few years later a mobile caravan-type home for a large European holiday park operator. We also developed our tiny designs that we believed would be perfect for people for whom becoming homeless was a real risk.

Alongside the rebrand we’ve worked out a much clearer and simpler system ensuring a real efficiency in the way our modular designs and components can be selected to create a huge choice, ensuring homes are incredibly personalised – we’ll explain more soon!

But, in the meantime, it’s business as usual… thank you for your continued support!

 

delivering buildings

delivering buildings

We’ve been involved with a wide range of projects over the last few years and it’s been the more unusual, or those seen travelling down the motorway on the back of a lorry that grab all the attention…! It’s also because of these that unfortunately we can be pigeon-holed as simply being a cheap, temporary prefab manufacturer.

The reality is quite different. The fundamental aim of our company is to provide better quality design and living space, that is affordable. It can then be customised (or upgraded) depending on a client’s preference and/or budget.

We think everybody deserves to live in much better buildings.

Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, had similar sentiments about furniture:

“The temples of design in places like Milan or God knows where overflow with beautiful, original furniture that costs extortionate amounts of money. The vast majority of people don’t have six-figure amounts in the bank and don’t live in enormous apartments…it is for just such people that I created IKEA. For everybody who wants a comfortable house in which to live well. A need that crosses all countries, races and religions.”

The fact that our buildings are modular, based on a prefabricated timber frame system, can be mobile, and can even float, is not only a bonus, but these characteristics help to achieve our goals. Through an element of modularised design and standardisation we can maintain quality whilst bringing down the price.

We don’t want to compromise on the materials and components we know work well.

We’ve recently completed a fully fitted out building off-site (pictured above) and transported it from Manchester to Essex, lifted it in position and connected the services in just a day. This particular building is a security pavilion for a business park, but it could easily be a one or two bedroom home. Despite it being a small commercial building, it is built to our standard specification and uses the same timber frame system. We’re continually demonstrating how flexible our designs can be.

Cramming all of our expertise into a building which can fit on the back of a lorry makes building larger more permanent homes on-site seem easy! Actually, that’s not quite true. Both building on and off-site have their own challenges. The point is, you can overcome the logistics of “delivering buildings”, the real challenge is delivering better quality more affordably… and sustainably.

 

the air we breathe

Withings air quality monitorthe air we breathe

There’s been a lot of news recently about the dangerous air quality in our cities – according to government figures, the number of premature deaths attributed to particulate pollution has risen since 2013, but little has been said about the internal air quality of our homes.

It was touched upon in the excellent Story of Stuff movie – highlighting the huge number of toxins that are emitted from synthetic chemicals. But this website outlines the real scale of the problem, from cooking with gas to mould growth due to poor ventilation… www.myhealthmyhome.com

The design and specification of our homes tackle each of these potential health risks. We minimise the amount of “off-gassing” of toxins into the home by selecting products that contain zero or very few VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are a large group of carbon-based chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. They are a good indicator of the overall air quality and the ventilation of the room. Examples of the carefully selected products we use include our VOC-free natural paint and varnishes by Auro, skirting using Medite’s Ecologique (MDF with no added formaldehyde) and Alternative Flooring’s Eco Collection.

To combat humidity, our MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) system includes an integral humidity sensor that increases the speed of the fan in proportion to relative levels and a condensate drain to take away the excess moisture. The MVHR unit also filters the outside air.

In addition to explaining the connection between the use of very high quality of materials in regards to performance and longevity, we can now confidently demonstrate how this also results in exceptional internal air quality.

Over the last year we’ve been testing the Withings Home monitoring system. Although this product’s most obvious feature is an HD camera, it also incorporates air quality sensors that gives real-time feedback to help you build a healthier environment. It keeps watch over indoor air pollution, which is invisible and can be ten times higher than outdoor air pollution. An easy-to-understand graph, available in the app, shows you past and current levels of Volatile Organic Compounds. If they reach unhealthy levels, Home blinks red and sends a notification. With this data at hand, you are able to make timely decisions, like opening the windows when using cleaning products or after assembling a piece of pressed-wood furniture.

Withings also have an excellent blog that includes a number of articles specifically related to air quality.

We’ve been checking our levels, measured in PPM (Part Per Million); 450 – 1,000 ppm is classed as being good; 1,000 – 2,000 ppm is medium; 2,000 – 3,000 ppm is bad; and anything over 3,000 ppm is very bad. We’re happy to report that our Manchester show home has consistently measured an average of 470ppm. This is excellent, especially considering we’re also on a very busy road – apparently the busiest bus route in Europe!

The MVHR unit ensures Carbon Dioxide levels remain low and we have a Nest Protect to alert us of any potentially lethal Carbon Monoxide or smoke.

All-in-all we have a very healthy home, now with sensors that continually monitor the air quality… all at a very affordable price.

 

Custom Build at Heartlands in Cornwall

Heartlands

Custom Build at Heartlands in Cornwall

We’re slowly moving towards our first ever Custom Build project in the UK. In fact, it’s one of the Homes and Communities Agency’s (HCA) biggest custom build projects and is set up by government to boost house-building by unlocking a wave of new homes designed and built by their owners.

‘Custom Build’ (based on the Dutch model of Homeruskwartier, in Almere) offers people a more accessible route onto the housing ladder whilst providing an opportunity for people to design the home of their dreams.

We’re one of six ‘home manufacturers’ selected by joint venture developer Carillion Igloo to build 54 made-to-order houses at the site in Cornwall. All plots will cost around £50,000, irrespective of whether the custom builder is intending to develop a two, three or four-bedroom home.

Heartlands is fantastic. It’s a free visitor attraction and World Heritage Site Gateway in Cornwall. Nestled just off the A30 in Pool, near Redruth in the former mining heart of Cornwall, there are 19 acres of eclectic fun to explore. State-of-the-art exhibitions, climb-on sculptures, gardens of real diversity, a giant adventure playscape for kids designed by LUC – the best we’ve ever seen! (pictured above), art and craft studios and a unique café in the old carpenter’s workshop.

The developers together with their property agents Humberts are currently looking for pioneers! We’re offering our “urban dwelle.ing” which is available in a wide variety of customisable options. We also now have a flat roof version (with an optional roof terrace – perfect for views across Heartlands). Details coming soon.

If you’re interested, please contact Duncan at Humberts – http://www.humberts.com or contact Ric on 07976 704 532. You can also register your interest here: www.homemadeheartlands.co.uk

The project will start on site in 2016.

self build your wudl home, in Cornwall

dwelle

self build your wudl home, in Cornwall

We’ve always allowed our designs to be customised so that our clients can self build a home that meets their specific requirements, not unlike buying a car. It’s the perfect opportunity for a Self Builder to personalise their own unique home using our affordable and highly sustainable system. However, one of the huge problems in the UK is land availability.

This is where ‘Custom Build’ (based on the Dutch model of Homeruskwartier, in Almere) differs – it removes the hassle of finding a site.

We’re one of six ‘home manufacturers’ selected by joint venture developer Carillion Igloo to build 54 made-to-order houses at a site at Trevenson Park South in Pool, Cornwall. All plots will cost around £50,000, irrespective of whether the custom builder is intending to develop a two, three or four-bedroom home. An entry-level house will have a price tag of roughly £120,000.

The first plots will be available for sale in Spring 2015 and the development is due to be completed by the end of 2017.

Much more news will be coming soon – if you want to keep up-to-date on this particular project and interested in doing a self build, please subscribe here: http://trevensonpark.launchrock.com

 

Climate Change and being Carbon Active

understanding Climate Change at Carbon Active in Manchester

Climate Change and being Carbon Active

It’s science-FACT that we’re experiencing climate change. We all have to make a much stronger effort to reduce our carbon footprint and our overall consumption of limited resources.

At Wudl, in addition to ensuring our building designs and specification meet the highest standards of environmental sustainability, our business activities are equally sustainable and we spend as much time as we can supporting events that publicise the issues of global warming.

Probably one of the most enjoyable events we took part in this year was Carbon Active at Manchester Arndale Centre (pictured above). It was a 3-day annual festival of low carbon living packed with activities to get involved in, games to play and things to make, to celebrate sustainable living.

A month ago we met with a group of young people at Victoria Baths as part of an Inspirational Showcase for UpRising’s My Voice My Vote programme. Ric showed them some of the eco materials we use and explained exactly what we do and why. The event was covered by BBC Radio Manchester:  www.uprising.org.uk

We also spent some time with the eco-team from Hulme’s St Philip’s Primary School – we gave them a tour of our dwelle.ing and explained how each element of the building contributed to its low energy operation. They were such a knowledgable group of children. They loved it!!

We’ve found that there’s a lot of low carbon activities going on in Manchester, mostly captured by an excellent website called Platform. It’s an everyday portal for sharing knowledge and intelligence on sustainability across the county. Please take a look:  http://ontheplatform.org.uk

Our home city isn’t short of people with the passion and desire to make change, but sadly many of the people in power just don’t have the same care or vision and any effort is simply paid with lip service… perhaps we need to be more vocal? Manchester Climate Monthly certainly does a good job being vocal, but shouldn’t we ALL be doing much more…?!!

What’s happening in your area…?? Please let us know on our Facebook page.

 

 

introducing customisable home options…

customisable home options collageYou can create your own home from the many additions and customisable design options… the building can be personalised to meet your needs, desires and budget.

There are many high quality internal options to choose from. They range from different heating types, choices in lighting, varying degrees of control, a wide range of finishes and fittings, and all of the options and additions are incredibly energy efficient.

For the exterior there is a range of cladding materials for the skin of the building. It can be clad in timber, zinc, corten steel, stone panels or brick (slips). On a project that consists of multiple dwelle.ings, having two or three different external materials creates a striking appearance to the overall development. The building system may have been standardised to achieve high levels of design and construction, but the individual dwelle.ing should be personal and sit comfortably within it’s environment.

We’re perfectly suited to the Custom Build sector. The Self Build Portal defines Custom Build homes as projects where you work with a specialist developer or home manufacturer to help deliver your own home, whereas self build projects tend to be those where you directly organise the design and construction of your own new home yourself. Our service is perfectly suited to Custom Build, although we’re always here for the true self builders out there!

Ultimately we’re helping you to make your “dwelle.ing”, unique.

 

Greenbuild EXPO & Green Open Homes

greenbuild-expo
  • 16th May 2014

Thank you to everyone who called by our stand at Greenbuild EXPO last week – it was an excellent show. Unfortunately we didn’t get chance to sit in any of the seminars, we were so busy (!), but we heard from visitors that they were very very green and very informative. Hopefully we’ll be back at 2015’s Greenbuild EXPO that will be later in the year on the 10th and 11th of November.

Our next event is just this weekend – we’re taking part in the Great Manchester Green Open Homes tours tomorrow and next Saturday. We’ll be open from 10am to 4pm and giving a one hour presentation at 12 noon for which you’ll have to book a place. Full details and booking info is here: http://carboncoop.greenopenhomes.net/homes/dwelle-661

 

awards for design & sustainability

sustainability awards

Last night we received two more awards, one for design and the other for sustainability, at the Manchester Society of Architects annual awards event held at Castlefield Gallery. Both were for a residential project that was completed last year.

Dwelle (the design architects on the project) were invited to submit a proposal to Eastlands Homes, a Manchester based Housing Association, for the modernisation of 3 residential tower blocks whilst they remained fully occupied. A key strength in the our strategy was to listen to the residents and the local community. Our response was a design that not only dealt with fuel poverty and gave the blocks a much needed facelift and increased longevity, but enhanced the overall community environment.

Architects Halliday Meecham provided the technical role on the project and Contract Administered the £8 million scheme through (an often rare) traditional procurement using a JCT Contract. The Planning Consultant was Claudia Gilbert, the Structural Engineer was Joule, the cladding specialist was Mark Heywood and the main contractor was Henry Boot.