We believe our concept of integrating self build into a controlled factory setting is an exciting formula that will speed up the delivery process, creating good quality homes while putting the customer at the heart of the process. We believe this is key to making homes that really do ‘shelter the body and comfort the soul’.
Factory sites and logistics
We plan to establish a large factory and community hub in the South West, with temporary flying factories to cater for demand further afield. We have kept construction detailing simple, meaning we do not need large or specialist machinery or equipment. With our basic jig to hold the I-beams while they are fixed together, modules can be assembled quickly and easily using standard power tools. This will make it easier to deploy flying factories of various scales rapidly and cost-effectively to meet customer demand.
Module design and assembly
Each module is 5.22m long, up to 2.8m deep (depending on desired size of home) and 3m tall.
Our two-bed home consists of six modules as shown in the diagram, with each module A to F built separately and then stacked together on site. The smaller starter home for one person is 44m2 and consists of four modules, A to D, leaving out modules E and F.
The designs evolved from a shipping container concept, which is reflected in the simple box-like structure of the modules. To avoid the issues of moisture condensation that can sometimes occur in the non-breathable metal container structures, we have developed an alternative structure using natural, breathable and biodegradable materials. Our homes are constructed using a simple timber I-beam structure, where the racking strength is built into the joints of the vertical and horizontal I-beams using specially-designed haunch plates to join the beams. Like shipping containers, the modules have been designed to allow stacking and moving. An additional advantage is that the front and rear walls are non-load-bearing and there are no internal structural walls, allowing flexible options for layout of rooms, doors and windows. The timber I-beams also create a wide cavity, allowing for high levels of natural fibre insulation.
Our designs have been created through collaboration between self builders – who have experience of designing and physically building their own home – and architects Barton Wilmore. We’ve also received design input from others including Passivhaus design advice from GCP Architects, structural engineering from Milner Associates and feedback from architecture students from the University of the West of England and local builders.
Transport of modules
The modules have been designed to allow transfer from production facility to final location on the back of a lorry. Module dimensions are < 3m wide and < 3m high, enabling them to be easily moved on most roads within the UK. A telehandler or crane will be used to move the modules into their final position. On smaller sites the use of a telehandler would be more economical, however on a larger sites or where homes of over two storeys were required, a crane would be used to maximise speed.
Delivery plan and routes to market
We are currently working with Bristol City Council to identify an appropriate site for the factory and community hub. In the meantime we are renting a smaller site to create a temporary pop-up factory. This will be used to build the prototype and possibly the first few homes for sale.
We are collaborating with Knowle West Media Centre, a community organisation within Bristol, with the aim of locating the first prototype beside their community building. It will be used to house artists in residence, who will use the arts to explore housing issues with people from the local area.
A core aim is to use the factory and community hub to help larger groups build their own homes collectively. The first step in doing this will be to make sure that suitable land will be available for larger scale housing projects. We are working in partnership with Bristol Community Land Trust and United Communities (a registered provider in Bristol) to set up our first residential scheme of ten affordable starter homes as part of a community-led housing project in the city. We will continue to work with these organisations and with other landowners and enablers to identify further sites for group build projects, as well as seeking individual serviced plots on larger custom build sites, to ensure that our modular homes can be easily matched to land opportunities.