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Pop-Up Housing Project Adaptable Worldwide

4 Feb 2013

A competition for a social housing project in London has thrown up a winning team with a novel and very interesting solution to short term housing provision, especially for single homeless. Although thought out specifically with London's own social problems (and solutions) in mind, with a bit of ingenuity this could easily be tweaked for use in the Philippines.

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An artists impression of the garages transformed into living spaces for homeless people at minimal cost. This design won out of 400 entries in a recent UK competition of architects

With the starting point of utilising blocks of redundant garages, the winning design team from London architects Levitt Bernstein have conceived the idea of employing re-usable interior panelling and furniture to fit out and create one-person living spaces.   

Left is a top view of a livng area, right is same view of the communal area (on a ratio of 4 to 1) providing cooking facilities (click to enlarge slightly)

Working to a reasonably tight budget the design team of two architects, Georgie Revell and Sarah Jenkinson, have come up with a very well priced (for London) plan that uses unemployed covered car parking spaces, as well as homeless people to provide the workforce, to create the panels for the interior of the garages, and installing them.

The same people will then become the tenants. 

Artists impression of a front view, note how the design team have unit C as the communal area and the private exterior area (defensible space) in front of each unit

The panels which line the inside of the garages as well as the furniture are meant to be demountable, so that if the owner of the garages wants to redevelop the site, these can be removed and used elsewhere.  

As the blocks of garages would be expected to be of a similar construction, this should pose no problems for construction, including the fact that most garage blocks are constructed of brick or concrete.  

There are several novel features in the designs mainly of cost savings.

Space limitations are the obvious factor here, so the design team envisage an optimum ratio of four living pods to one communal area. The communal area contains full cooking facilities as well as becoming a "meeting" point for tenants.

The space in the living pods would by the nature of the design be able to hold not much in the way of "white goods" in the kitchenettes. The design team have allowed for the provision of a combined mini oven/microwave and a small refrigerator for each living area so allowing cooking of meals for one or two persons. A combination microwave oven/mini-cooker as well as a mini-refrigerator installed in each living unit's kitchenette would give occupants facilities for cooking meals for one or two persons  

There is also a novel use of sharing the sink between the shower room and the kitchen.

Storage space is at a premium, so Imelda Marcos would probably not move in as she would not be able to store her shoes. 

The sleeping area is well thought out, with a standard single bed of reasonable size, a shelving system for storage with a hanging wardrobe, with the provision of a small safe for valuables.

Natural light is provided by floor to ceiling glass at the front.

There is a also a "private" area at the front with a depth of one meter, or what the design team term "defensible space". 

Impression of how the units would blend into the surrounding area

The apprentice aspect of this project looks to work well. The bulk of the labor would be from the homeless people themselves, who would also be the eventual tenants.

Most of the work is of an unskilled/semi-skilled nature. The exceptions would be for the cutting of the panels which would need to be done by a qualified wood machinist/cabinet maker or carpenter, and obviously the sewage/water supply would need a plumber, while an electician would be needed for the power supply.

The remainder of the project is common sense, with a team leader organizing matters. 

What makes this project design so well thought out is its simplicity, the social aspect of provision of accommodation along with an impressive cost benefit advantage. It is this costing advantage that should get those in the UK who are tasked with providing social housing the greatest incentive to using the design.

The prototype, which is just an example given by the Levitt Bernstein dsign team, is of 47 garages transformed into living units. Using their premise that there should be one communal area per four living units, that means 12 units will be communal leaving 35 living units.

At a design cost of £13,000 per unit, this equals £611,000. Adding to this the provision of a cooker and a fridge freezer in each communal area would add probably £1,000 per unit giving a total cost of around £623,000.

In the area the design team have used as an example in east London, £623K will buy a 3/4 bedroom house.

So this has to be a no brainer for the accountants to leap on. 35 people housed for the cost of a 4 bed house. 


Where this could be appropriate for the Philippines is not in the use of redundant garages as the design team propose, but in the use of redundant 20 foot shipping containers.

The garages are of a relatively standard size (with some variations) which give a floor space of approximately 11.5 to 12 square meters, whereas a 20 foot container gives a floor space slightly larger at 14 square meters. Also, the containers are constructed to the same size, so panels could all be of a standard size.

There has already been work done in using ex-shipping containers to provide emergency housing around Asia and South America. 

The simplicity of the design, the low cost per unit and the use of the potential tenants as labor give this design a leg-up over others, the use of garages is perfect for Britain's inner cities and urban enviroments, while a bit of creative thought could see the same design being used in redundant shipping containers elsewhere such as in the Philippines  

The winning proposal (out of over 400 other entrants) uses temporary ‘pop-up’ structures to occupy redundant garages on existing housing estates. HAWSE (Homes through Apprenticeships With Skills for Employment) was designed by Georgie Revell and Sarah Jenkinson in collaboration with a homeless charity and training academy. The intention is for the project to be delivered through an apprenticeship scheme with components manufactured off-site as a kit-of parts. The structures are quick to assemble and can be inhabited immediately with the components being demountable and reusable.  The proposals utilise disused spaces creatively, positively and temporarily. They not only offer a home but education opportunities in construction techniques, a way of regenerating street frontage and a practical interim solution between other development possibilities.

Architect Georgie Revell from Levitt Bernstein said “The proposal targets under-used spaces in high density areas where land value is high and rising. We believe it offers a creative and practical interim solution between other development opportunities and we’re really excited about the potential to develop the scheme with Building Trust and our partners.”

Sarah Jenkinson from Levitt Bernstein said: “We are delighted that the concept has been recognised as an innovative way to transform disused spaces in the city and we look forward to working with partners in the future to realise a prototype.”

Judge Andy Redfearn, YMCA Director of Development said, “Levitt Bernstein provided a creative and cost effective solution to providing accommodation for single people in an urban setting. One was able to easily visualise the concept becoming a reality and I look forward to seeing the first people move in”

David Cole, founding partner of Building Trust International said, “We would like to thank all those who took part. The international range of entries received was fantastic and shed light on how differing cultures perceive single occupancy and its future impact on the growth of cities. We are very excited to be moving forward with the winning proposal and with the level of detail expressed in some of the other shortlisted designs we hope they also have a chance to be realised. The competition has been a great success and highlights the key role that architects and designers have in providing solutions to social housing problems occurring on their own doorsteps.”

The competition brief asked for proposals to focus on low cost, single occupancy housing solutions in urban areas to respond to the deficit of affordable housing options.  The competition had over 400 entries for both the professional and student categories and the judging panel was chaired by Building Trust, YMCA, Habitat for Humanity and Crash. 

Simplicity is the keyword of this design (click image to enlarge)

The Pop-up HAWSE is an initiative to tackle homelessness in the London Boroughs. The principal is to rent and inhabit disused garages on existing housing estates.The HAWSE units are manufactured off-site and delivered to site as a kit-of-parts. An individual HAWSE unit consists of a bedroom and shower room.Every 5th unit is a communal laundry, kitchen and dining area. After their useful life, the components are demountable and reusable.The project is delivered through a government funded apprenticeship scheme and homeless charity who find both apprentices and tenants.The cost per HOUSE unit is approximately £13,000. This is achieved through the involvement of the apprenticeship scheme and the lack of land acquisition. The ongoing costs per month include rent (approx. £50) andutility bills.

The delivery team is architect-led with support from a Quantity Surveyor (QS), a well known London based homeless charity and an established apprenticeship scheme. All interested parties are real and work in and around east London. The names have been removed for this submission.

The proposal takes advantage of government funded apprenticeship schemes which link students with contractors. As part of the programme, students - some of whom are nominated by the homeless charity - construct all the parts of Pop-up HAWSE and install it on site. The costs for materials are met by the charity, whilst labour and tools are covered by the course. Following completion, The Charity nominate tenants for the units, including those who have participated in the apprenticeship scheme.

Planning consent would be required for change of use, to change of facade and extend the threshold and Building Regulations would need to be met. For the charity, additional ‘Decent Homes' standards are taken into consideration for all accommodation.

While there are no legal space standards in the UK, most new affordable housing scheme funders require London Housing Design Guide (LHDG) standards.Pop-Up HAWSEs are not typical housing units as they are limited by the existing structure and are designed to be temporary. However as ‘good practice' they meet LHDG where possible with area guidelines for single bedrooms and kitchens close to LHDG. 

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