The spirited British architect Bill Dunster is applying the knowledge he has acquired over decades of working on sustainable projects: He has a clever response to the housing shortage in Greater London that is affordable, sensible, environmentally friendly, attractive, and flexible. His concept might seem utopian. But only at first glance.
The shortage of housing is a permanent condition in London and a common element of many cosmopolitan cities. But in recent years the situation has become particularly acute. Even people with well-paying jobs can hardly afford a place to live, whether buying or renting. The main cause of this housing stress is population growth, in combination with insufficient construction volume. From 1997 to 2016, the city grew by 1.7 million inhabitants, but in the same period, only 370,000 new apartments were built. The figures for the whole of England hardly look any better: Since 2005 the population has grown by 4.2 million people, but only 1.2 million new housing units have been built.
Speculation aggravates the situation. In the City of London, the central district, 21,000 apartments are currently vacant because they are being used solely as an investment, particularly for international buyers sequestering funds into residential properties. Their monetary calculations are understandable: In the record year of 2015, prices for residential properties in London rose by ten percent, and they are expected to climb by another 15 percent by 2021.
The housing shortage now affects the whole region. “In southeast England, up to five million people live in substandard conditions,” says Bill Dunster. “Nowadays, the average student sleeps on the sofa, 35-year-olds still live with their parents because they can’t afford to move out, and some families are converting their garage to house their grandparents. It’s been like Hong Kong here for a long time – but our government officials keep sweeping the problem under the carpet.”
Bill Dunster always speaks with passion and commitment. Whether it’s regarding climate change around the world or political change the United Kingdom, the architect born in 1960 in South London states his opinions frankly and unmistakably. But his sharpness of mind contrasts pleasantly with the gentleness of his words: Bill is a totally calm discussion partner who listens very carefully. He is one of those decisive types of professionals who seek constructive solutions and bring lofty ideas down to the plane of reality through meticulous effort and solid teamwork.
One of those big ideas is the project that won Bill Dunster and his office ZEDfactory the LafargeHolcim Awards Bronze in Europe. It promises to make an important contribution to alleviating the housing shortage. The idea seems so obvious that you might not think it’s revolutionary at first glance. But that’s the case with many well-thought-out projects – in the end, they seem utterly natural. Put simply, Bill Dunster proposes to install residential structures above outdoor parking lots. The cars remain below as before, and floating above them are compact residential units, which the architect calls ZEDPods. At second glance, you begin to see just how big this idea really is – because Bill Dunster has succeeded in, as it were, squaring the circle.
Read the full article: “Squaring the circle” in Fifth LafargeHolcim Awards – Sustainable Construction 2017/2018See more
The LafargeHolcim Awards Bronze 2017 Europe winning zero carbon ZEDpod is a prefabricated home with a difference. The approach decouples housing provision from land prices by installing the units with “air rights” over car parks, offering almost instant high-quality housing solutions without the land and planning issues associated with a conventional new build.
According to ZEDpods architect Bill Dunster: “The beauty of the ZEDpod concept is that it enables affordable, quality city homes where land is scarce or expensive. A pod is put up quickly and enables keyworkers to live near their work, while at the same time maintaining precious car park spaces.”
The design of the housing units has been developed further since its submission in the LafargeHolcim Awards, increasing the total floor area to meet national affordable homes minimum space standards. The low cost, pre-fabricated homes are built to higher standards than conventional houses, being super insulated, triple glazed, with heat recovery ventilation and plenty of daylight, reducing energy demand significantly. The solar roofs generate more energy than the houses consume and are designed to have the lowest running costs possible.
The upgraded design has passed the Q Assure Build warranty test, which is a prerequisite for the provision of home loans – and therefore an option for first-home buyers. In collaboration with Lesko Modular Group, ZEDfactory is converting a disused food distribution warehouse in Peterborough into a manufacturing site with a capacity to produce around 18 pods per month.
With a lack of interest from car park owners, little traction with administrators, and negative preconceptions of living above car parking spaces, focus has broadened to include alternative land sources such as ground-mounted sites and land parcels waiting for funding of long-term development. ZEDpods provides an affordable housing alternative in a region where demand for housing outstrips supply by 500 homes per week.See more
As one of the three main LafargeHolcim Awards winners for Europe in 2017, “Air Rights” automatically qualified as a finalist in the Global LafargeHolcim Awards 2018. All 15 finalist project teams were asked to submit an updated and more comprehensive entry that was evaluated by a global jury in March 2018.
The results of the global phase of the 5th LafargeHolcim Awards competition were announced on March 28, 2018.
As in many large cities, the British capital has a severe affordable housing deficit. ZEDpods in London aims to change that. The project envisages using the footprint of existing parking spaces to create residential space through vertical stacking for commuters, students, and other stakeholders – all with locally produced elements that can be quickly assembled into sustainable “apartments on stilts.” Multi-use space is again at the forefront. The project author has “a vision of an architecture that is socially responsible, ecologically sound, and economically affordable,” found the jury.Read more »
To partially reduce London’s housing shortage, the project proposes a straightforward and resourceful solution, namely, to construct living units on elevated platforms over public parking spaces all over the city. Intended for young people and municipal workers (firefighters, nurses, police personnel, etc.), the units are economically affordable, insofar as land costs are replaced by the leasing of air rights. The building units are entirely based on prefabricated elements that can easily be assembled on site, thus further reducing construction costs. Adhering to the principle of minimizing emissions in the building sector in general, the project avoids the use of fossil energy for both the manufacturing process as well as for operations and maintenance – contributing, in effect, to a low-carbon architecture.
Praising the idea of building above existing parking spaces, the jury fully endorsed the author’s vision of an architecture that is socially responsible, ecologically sound, and economically affordable. Considering in addition that the project is both innovative and transferable, proof is undoubtedly offered that the design indeed meets the “target issues” set forth by the LafargeHolcim Foundation – at least for the most part, as noted by the jury during the deliberation process. The scheme’s qualities and benefits notwithstanding, some jury members nonetheless raised the question as to whether aesthetic considerations were consciously addressed or whether architectural expression was simply considered a result of technical and material exigencies. Criticism aside, the design intelligently manages to translate a vision into reality, one that could undoubtedly benefit from the project’s foresightedness.See more
One of the solutions to the affordable homes crisis
ZEDpods provide first homes for young people and key municipal workers – erected above existing parking lots close to amenities and jobs. The sites use the benefits of car parks such as good transport links, workplace locations, in situ local amenities, as low carbon homes that reduce strain on the existing infrastructure. Built on land outside of the development plan, there are public parking spaces in the UK with suitability for up to 200,000 ZEDpods. Fully-funded model allows Local Authorities to build affordable homes without the need to find land or capital expenditure.
An innovative prefabricated highly energy efficient microhome
The ZEDpods are built to higher standards than conventional homes with super-insulation, vapor-permeable draught-proofed construction, heat recovery ventilation, aluminum-clad triple glazing, hot dip galvanized structural frame with timber infill panels and external insulation. The external envelope is designed to be around 20 years until first maintenance, and is constructed from fireproof, durable and robust materials. One unit of solar electricity will normally produce around 3 units of heat, enabling each home to be substantially powered by solar electricity generated by the photovoltaic roof panels. The solar electricity produced during the day is stored in a large 60kwh lithium ion phosphate battery store with integrated inverter, which can power the homes at night.
Off-site construction and reusable structure
The ZEDpod is a unique kit of parts concept that does not rely on one centralized factory. Pop up assembly sheds can be set up locally to meet housing demand and create local employment. We can build high volumes with parallel production facilities throughout the UK. The pods are constructed off site in the UK, and can be erected in a matter of days with a forklift. They have a patented raft foundation that exerts no more pressure on the existing tarmac than a conventional vehicle. They are more cost effective than purchasing land and building conventional construction with conventional foundations.See more
Zero (fossil) Energy Development units on parking lots, London, United Kingdom: Prototype for a low-carbon architecture …
By using the air rights above car parks, ZEDpods can create affordable and relocatable housing that addresses land …
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