I've just got back from the BRE (Building Research Establishment) Innovation Park in Watford where I feel I've seen the future of housing.
And it looks great.. low cost, low energy, generous-sized homes that people could buy based on multiples-of-income mortgages..for which I mean around the £100-£150,000 mark (taking an average salary as being in the £25-£35,000 bracket); or which, given their cost, could be rented at genuinely affordable rents. These surely should get everyone involved in social housing truly excited.
The houses in question are called volumetric accommodation, or super duper prefabs in common parlance. That's because they're assembled from insulated prefabricated units that arrive on site fully fitted out with cables, wires and pipes, electric sockets, doors and windows, kitchens and bathrooms and walls painted and merely in need of a picture or two. And your roof can be clad with terracotta tiles that are, in fact, photovoltaics, so you can generate your own electricity (see the opening image).
The pods are manufactured in South Wales and this semi-detached building, which divided into a two-storey and a three-storey house, is the result of collaboration between Swiss not-for-profit technology company Userhuus, which is focusing on sustainable solutions for the built environment, and Edinburgh-based Tigh Grian, which develops structural insulated panel system houses (SIPS) aimed at alieviating fuel poverty.