Homeshell is a low-energy, low-cost house designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP). It represents a design and construction process that offers an answer to Britain’s housing crisis. The Homeshell was built at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in conjunction with ‘Richard Rogers RA: Inside Out’. It is built here to provoke debate on the future of British housing, on innovation in architectural design and on a new approach to construction.
This three-and-a-half-storey building arrived as flat-pack panels on one truck and took just 24 hours to assemble on site. It is also what you might call an evolution of the design – the first Homeshell design was in Milton Keynes, RSHP’s housing project at Oxley Woods, completed in 2007. Oxley Woods has been a roaring success. Residents love it – a survey showed 100 per cent of them would recommend Oxley Woods to friends and family – and hardly anyone wants to leave. Just five households out of over 120 have moved on in the past six years. Fellow architects love it too. In 2008 it picked up the RIBA’s Manser Medal for the UK’s best-designed home.
Homeshell is constructed using a building system called Insulshell (developed by Sheffield Insulations Group (SIG) and Cox Bench). This flexible system can be used for a range of building types. As well as homes it can be retooled for schools, factories, retail developments and health centres, even sports venues. The Velodrome, for example, a star attraction at the London 2012 Olympics, was constructed using this method. Now SIG have improved the properties of the system, making it more energy-efficient and flexible. It could knock up to 40 per cent off the cost of traditional building, while its zero-carbon credentials could mean up to 90 per cent savings compared with conventional housing.
The construction allows architects to create interiors with larger, longer windows and corner windows that bring in more light and feel more spacious. Rooms can be easily reconfigured to adapt to residents’ needs because none of the interior walls are structural. Homeshell’s flexible, modular design also means it can be used to extend and retrofit existing buildings. The speed of its construction is a key USP. A simple Homeshell design such as the prototype before you can be assembled and made watertight in 24 hours, while a six-storey, 24-unit block could be up and running in a month. This means less disruption, mess and noise on site, always good for neighbourly relations.
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