Design for Manufacture / Oxley Woods

Design for Manufacture / Oxley Woods - Concept

The aim of the Design for Manufacture competition was to address the major increases in construction costs associated with residential developments in recent years. It was hoped that the competition would stimulate fresh thinking within the industry, and that efficient construction methods would be used effectively to benefit housing developments.

The competition specified a design for a high-quality home with a total construction cost of £60,000. Architects and house builders were encouraged to work closely to find a viable way of achieving this goal.

The competition winners were given the opportunity to develop homes on ten sites identified by English Partnerships, of which 30 per cent would be houses with a £60,000 construction cost and 70 per cent larger units to be built to an equivalent cost-efficiency. Evidence to show that the proposed approach could be replicated on other sites outside the competition was required, as was evidence that the lessons learnt could, in turn, influence the design of thousands more new homes. 

A nationwide audit of new housing conducted in 2004 by CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) showed that a low percentage of houses were judged to be of ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ quality. While design costs are a small percentage of overall construction costs, it is through the design process that the greatest positive impact can be made on the efficiency, quality and long-term sustainability of buildings.

At the very least, all homes developed as part of the Design for Manufacture competition were required to follow the principles of the Urban Design Compendium, published by English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation in 2000. The homes must achieve English Partnerships’ policy standard of BRE’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) EcoHomes ‘Very Good’ rating, or an equivalent standard in the Code for Sustainable Buildings. In total, the competition hopes to create around 1,000 new homes across the UK that will be a mixture of sale and rental units. Around a third will be for first-time buyers under a shared equity scheme.

A variety of colours, scale and grain has been specified for the different façade options for the house, chosen according to suit – or contrast with – the local building vernacular.

The volume of the house is adaptable both in terms of orientation, regional variation of scale, proportion and material and is conceived for life-long living, with an inherent flexibility both in the short and long term. Internal layouts are free-span – ie without structural pillars and walls, maximising flexibility. To further enhance the range of choice, RRP envisages a range of add-on elements to give distinct identity. These elements include canopies, balconies, planted walls and study rooms.

Modern Methods of Construction allow components to be manufactured off-site, either as modules or ‘flat-pack’ for ease of transportation. Not only does this decrease construction times, it also reduces waste and energy used in the transportation of materials to site. Even without the distinctive EcoHat, the Oxley Woods houses represent a reduction of approximately 27 per cent in carbon dioxide emissions, compared with a conventional new-build house of similar size. This reduction rises to almost 40 per cent with the inclusion of the EcoHat, 50 per cent when the EcoHat is attached to a hot water system, and more than 70 per cent if the EcoHat utilises geothermal energy sources through a local bore hole.

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