May 11, 2015

The Fabric First Solution for affordable housing

Against a backdrop of increasing regulation and constrained budgets, the capacity to deliver projects quickly and efficiently is of paramount importance to affordable housing providers.

Affordable homes must achieve exceptional performance standards; be economical to build, and ideally have low maintenance costs over the building’s lifecycle. Housing providers are under constant pressure to achieve these objectives as quickly as possible as reports of the UK’s housing shortage continue.

Taking a fabric first approach to these challenges is the simplest and most cost effective solution. This approach combines a project’s chosen materials with design techniques to deliver energy efficiency through the building itself. Combining this with timber frame and offsite construction takes fabric first to its perfect conclusion, but more on that later.

An energy efficient house reduces the need for ‘bolt-on’ technologies to enforce or maintain energy efficiency, thereby reducing costs during both the building phase and the building lifecycle. It also eliminates the need for ongoing maintenance or improved energy efficiency, saving money in the long run, and removing the requirement for end users to maintain the energy efficiency of a home.

We combine a fabric first approach with our state-of-the-art timber frame build systems and offsite construction to offer affordable housing providers an option which delivers cost effective, high-performance, and low-maintenance builds quickly and efficiently.

Having worked on a large range of affordable housing projects, we understand the time, budget, and regulatory constraints facing providers, and know what works best when it comes to helping deliver projects while maintaining quality.

The Serpentine in Aylesbury is a large project consisting of 94 houses and flats over three floors. Built for Thames Valley Housing Association, this modern take on a Victorian terrace cost less than £60,000 per home to build while still offering the highest standards of energy efficiency and sustainable living.

Working with the project’s architects, we identified design and structural solutions which met the high energy performance goals of the brief while also helping keep costs to a minimum. For example, although the external walls appear to be curved in a ‘S’ shape from the outside, we engineered our build systems so that the inside of the building is divided into segments which all meet with the party wall at right angles. This design allowed us to achieve the look and feel of a curved building, while still use standardised ‘straight lines’ for the build systems. This meant we were able to manufacture all of the floor and ceiling cassettes in our factory on our fully automated lines, thereby reducing costs, eliminating waste, and helping deliver the project well within schedule.

On the smaller end of the spectrum, we delivered 15 two-storey houses for Youngs Homes on behalf of Flagship Housing Developments well ahead of its five-week build programme. One of the main aims of this project was to achieve outstanding energy efficiency, while also keeping costs to a minimum.

By using offsite construction and our award-winning Sigma II Build System, we delivered a project which more than met the client’s expectations.   

These are just two examples of how a fabric first approach can help affordable housing providers achieve their goals of high performance and cost effectiveness within any time frame. If you have a housing development you’d like to discuss and see how we can design a bespoke solution for you, get in touch.

Homes For Scotland Home Builders Federation National House-Building Council Royal Institute of British Architects Structural Timber Association Constructionline British Board of Agrement Wood Campus Build Off Site Building Research Establishment WOOD FOR GOOD

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