Thursday, 29 October 2015

'flat-pack' computer-generated plywood home

Welsh architect wins design contest with innovative 'flat-pack' computer-generated plywood home

453 welsh architect wins-lead2
8 October 2015

Original article

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Welsh architect Niall Maxwell, 44, from near Newcastle Emlyn in Carmarthenshire, has won the £5,000 top prize in the 2015 Self Build on a Shoestring competition. He was presented with his cheque by Kevin McCloud at the Grand Designs Live exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham earlier today.
Mr Maxwell (main picture: left, with McCloud) runs an architectural firm called the Rural Office for Architecture, which is based in Wales and London. The practice has a strong record of designing simple low-cost homes, and last year won the Royal Institute of British Architects' Welsh Architecture Small Project of the Year award for a £80,000 self build house at Pantybara.
His entry was supported by three of his colleagues – Rhodri Thomas (system design), Kieran Rees (system development) and James Blundall (visuals & presentation).
The contest challenged architects, designers and others to come up with innovative ways of building a modest ultra-flexible starter home that could be easily constructed for just £40,000.
The competition Brief required entrants to show how the house could grow or adapt as the household expanded over the years. And it also called for solutions that looked good and performed well on the environmental front. More than 30 entries were received from the UK and abroad, with submissions from Japan, the USA, Mexico, Germany, Spain and India.
The winning design (pictured, first and second right) was effectively a 'flat-pack' home made of 18mm plywood sections that were stamped out using a computer-controlled cutting machine. The machine automatically generates the plywood sections that form the floors, walls and roof. This results in very accurate cutting, and minimal waste.
The system needs no additional structural support, so is easy to assemble. "Think of it as the building equivalent of flat-pack furniture, but with the added benefits of future extension, alteration or relocation," says Mr Maxwell.
The cost of the initial 40m2 home is estimated at £39,796 (plus DIY labour). The winning team estimates it would take four people a week to construct the house. The design allows the basic 'hub' to be extended at either end, or an additional wing could be added. It could be clad in a range of materials – including timber, metal sheeting or wood shingles.
The judges were impressed that the design was based on an early prototype (pictured, third right) that the Rural Studio for Architecture built last year: "This solution has been based on a similar 'test' building that the team constructed last year – this suggests it is practical to build and the costs data that was provided is realistic and well prepared. If the homes were mass-produced the home could be built for about £840 per m2."
The second place in the competition went to the SplitHouse, designed by London-based architects Matthew Springett Associates, led by Alex Taylor. This entry was produced in collaboration with Price and Myers, and Appleyard and Trew.
Third place went to designer Leila Ferraby for her entry, called 'Bauelements', prepared in collaboration with Hanse Haus.
The top three entries were all very close, with just one point between them.
The competition is organised by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and Grand Designs Live. The judges included Kevin McCloud and the RIBA's self build representative Luke Tozer.
An exhibition of the 16 projects on the initial 'Long List' is currently on display at Grand Designs Live at the NEC in Birmingham (until 11th October), and full details of the top 16 entries are available to inspect on NaCSBA's website.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Debt is crippling us all -Let's build council houses- Really

"When I were a lad", I bought my first house on 2.5 times my salary and 1/3 my wifes income on a 20 year mortgage.  That ain't how it is any more, people!

So we are now hearing that we need mass building of council houses.  Great I say.  Please explain how that is going to happen.

Well, we will use current legislation and just compulsorily purchase agricultural land and make it available for developers to build council houses.  That's great so far.  Hang on a minute though, a council house in Aberdeen rents out for about ‎£350  a month.  So lets us say for instance you get the serviced plot for ‎£50 K, you build the house for ‎£130 K including all labour and materials.  That means you have to recover the ‎£180 K at 350 pounds a month (no current new houses in Aberdeen are that cheap)

If you had a 40 year payback at 3% interest it would take 40 years to get that 180K back and that is paying ‎£644 a month.

 It is not possible to use a developer and a bank to finance such a scheme unless you get the cost below ‎£100K.  No developer is going to do that unless the land is free and even then I do not think it is going to happen.  It is not possible to expect a nurse on 23K a year to rent a council house for ‎£644  a month.  Rent relief just means we are all paying for the scheme so that is subsidising and maintaining high social costs.

The other major issue with council houses is the rent has to get paid for ever.  So as an example my mum in law moved into a council house in Aberdeen in 1959.  When Thatcher allowed her to buy the house she did.  She now lives on an old age pension and just scrapes by.  Imagine if she had not bought that house.  She would have to find ‎£350  a month that she has not got from the age of 60.  She is currently 84 and going strong.  She worked hard as did her husband but their personal pensions are almost none existent.

Let's say she lives until she is 90.  So 30 years at ‎£350 a month is ‎£85K  of subsidy the state would have given her.  Even worse if you compare buying a house  to renting from age 25, the mortgage is paid off age 45 so from age 45 to 90 you pay rent.  That is almost double the ‎£85K some of which they pay some of which the state pays.

Then consider that the current youngsters who cannot get on the housing ladder.  There is no way the majority of them  are going to have the pension our generation had.  How are they going to pay their rent?  Are we expecting people to work until they are 90?  Get real.

Whatever way you add it up, buying a house is a far better proposition than renting.  We have to get cheap land and use technology to allow self builders to get the shell up quickly.

We have no spare builders, guys.....we need to change the model.  We cannot expect commercial banks to wait 60 years for payback on council houses.  It is no good building council houses and then renting them out for 650 pounds a month or more that does not help.

Do the maths.