In North Tyneside, a terrace of ten houses has been built on The Plateau of Smith’s Dock in North Shields, the former site of a thriving shipyard which has lay dormant for the past 30 years, and is now being transformed into a vibrant new neighbourhood by the joint venture. Earlier precedents in the US portfolio include Town House, designed by shedkm, a custom-build design whereby consumers could select their own floorplan. The terrace of ten Fab Houses sits in a masterplan alongside a crescent of 24 town houses and an 80-unit apartment, the Smokehouses, designed by SimpsonHaugh, which is still under construction.
With modules prepared in an off-site facility, site risks and scheduling concerns are minimised, resulting in a cost effective and waste efficient process which in contrast to traditional construction practices, ensures a more consistent quality. As Fab House proves, design doesn’t need to be sidelined in the process. The architects, TDO, have applied smart design strategies to finesse the detailing to create a house typology which is low cost and material efficient, without sacrificing beautiful contemporary living spaces. Working in close collaboration with the off-site contractor SIG from the outset, TDO looked for ‘free detail’ to expose, to bring character and quality to the interiors. For example, the timber ceiling joists in the modular cassettes of the floor plates have been exposed, a strategy which increases floor-to-ceiling heights to 2.88 metres, whilst ensuring material continuity with the birch-faced plywood staircase, which is treated as a sculptural object inserted into the open-plan reception space. The birch ply stairwell is toplit by a skylight, which, combined with floor-to-ceiling windows in the reception space and master bedroom, floods the interiors with natural light.
The design team also identified opportunities to make efficiencies in the fabrication process, for example by deploying central alignments in the cladding system so that the contractor did not have to align four corners, only two. The tolerances are increased and the final appearance much better controlled. The centre alignment of the cladding extends to the windows and doors, setting the overall rhythm of the building and establishing a structured and satisfying composition in the terrace. Services are concealed in a services zone behind the cladding, which can be connected externally on arrival direct from the factory floor. This gives a sense of weight and permanence to the façade not commonly associated with modular builds. This is emphasised with the specification of dark grey Equitone board, offset by the Corten steel shroud around the porch which creates shelter from the elements whilst referencing the site’s industrial heritage.
On behalf of the joint venture partners, Nigel Brewer, Places for People, said: “One of the key components within our plans at Smith’s Dock is modular housing, and we commissioned TDO in collaboration with George Clarke to design an exemplar modern methods of construction (MMC) pre-fabricated house type which would form part of our first phase. The result is 10 striking homes which are perfect for contemporary living. The TDO team has managed to plan out a space compatible with modern life and I’m delighted that our shared vision is now a reality.”
Fab House has been shortlisted in the 2018 Housing Design Awards.
Video: The Making of...
Images: Peter Cook