Case Study

Naked house, London, United Kingdom

26 April 2017

22 no thrills homes that are planned for London could form a solution to London’s housing crisis but the residents must add a lot to achieve a finished home

British Studio OMMX has won a competition to design 22 affordable homes across three constrained sites in London for the not-for-profit housebuilder Naked House, with the backing of the Mayor of London. The proposal was worked up in collaboration with Ritchie + Daffin (Building Services Engineers) and Price and Myers (Structural Engineers).

The design for Naked House lacks flooring, plasterwork and a bathroom, while the kitchen only has a sink. It is up to the residents to add to the homes to bring them up to spec. The new homes are likely to sell for 40% less than standard new builds, which could mean £380,000 below the average for London.

Each dwelling has a very minimal fit-out but is loaded with potential and constructed from robust, cheap, DIY and Design & Build friendly materials. In their naked state, the houses are completely open plan and fitted with a minimal number of appliances and fittings. The living room is double height, with a generous mezzanine level for a bed. The bathroom is in the centre of the plan, with the kitchen to the rear, looking onto a private garden. Both apartments are located at the end of the development and share a similar layout. The ground floor flat is accessed directly from the mews, whilst the 1st floor apartment is accessed via a roof terrace. The living and bedroom spaces are on either side of the services core and are interchangeable.

The houses anticipate and encourage future adaptation. When excavating the site by half a storey, a new concrete slab and foundations have been cast throughout, including under the gardens and new retaining wall. The gardens themselves have been sized to fulfil the criteria for a generously proportioned interior room, as specified by the London Housing Design Guide.

All the dwellings have been designed for both naked and fully adapted states to ensure that they work equally well. They are all dual aspect, well lit, well ventilated and spacious. They all comply with or exceed the London Housing Design Guide, notably in relation to minimum room dimensions and lifetime homes (e.g. wheelchair access and inclusion of a substantial ground floor bathroom). Furthermore, because the houses are only two storeys tall, they do not need partition walls or enclosed lobbies and can be fully open plan, further reducing build costs. In their naked state, the houses represent a generous and financially accessible 50sqm open plan dwelling. In their fully adapted state, each house can achieve 87sqm, a three bed four person two storey home, according to, and compliant with, the London Housing Design Guide.

The corner windows are a unique contemporary reworking of the projecting bay window. They operate in a similar way to the bay window, affording two neighbours a tiny glimpse into each other’s lives, in addition to broadening the view onto the mews and fragmenting the perceived mass of the proposal, by literally eroding the corners. The new garden walls separating the proposed dwellings are built at half height. This not only saves on cost, but also encourages neighbourliness and gives the perception of a much grander garden to the rear of the dwellings in their naked state. Rainwater collects in the valleys separating the roofs and is channelled towards a large spout which kicks out the water from the building facade forming an impressive water feature, a gargoyle of sorts.

Adaptability

The Naked House is designed to facilitate simple adaption by the residents.

In its ‘naked’ state, 50 sq m of open plan dwelling is initially provided to each resident. However, the floor area of the house can be easily expanded in two ways: through a rear extension and by infilling the double height space within the envelope.

The foundations have been laid so that a rear extension can make use of the new full height garden wall sitting astride the site boundary. This means that the resident need only construct a roof and insulate within to enclose a new well-proportioned room. As the enclosing wall has already been built, a party wall agreement with the neighbours is already in place for the extension, making it a much simpler process for the resident.

If a resident wants more room without extending the envelope of the building, they can build out from the mezzanine provided to form a two storey house. To make this process as simple and accessible as possible, an internal concrete shelf protrudes from the blockwork walls around the perimeter. Residents can then easily support timber joists (and their desired floor buildup) from this shelf to form a new floor. The stair is located centrally within the plan to allow easy access to rooms either side of the house.

Finally, the weather barrier of the roof sits above the structure to enable the resident to easily replace the solid panels with glazed panels, should they want additional light.

In other words, the Naked House expands upon the common rear extension and loft conversion as an existing framework that people understand and feel comfortable with. It provides a very affordable entry level shell, which is generously proportioned and loaded with potential. The hard work is done by the contractor, and provides the resident with a blank canvas to tailor into their ideal home.

Nick Myall
News editor

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