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Unwanted Cladding Could Build Migrant Housing

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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A London-based architecture firm could help solve the housing issue for incoming migrants in the city, and put old building materials to use again to boot.

Reed Watts notes that a number of towers in the city are having their cladding panels removed as part of routine refurbishment projects. The panels are still in good condition, and, in response to a charity design competition, the firm has created a design called the Flat Pack, which could turn the old cladding into new short-term housing solutions for immigrants. (The cladding being eyed for this project is not related to the current inspections being carried out on high-rise building cladding after the Grenfell Tower fire.)
 
Images: Reed Watts

While they would be similar in size to a tent—which is what migrant workers have been living in, in parks and underpasses—these units could be more safely grouped together to create communities of friends and family.

The design, which was named the winner of the Starter for 10 charity competition, would use panels from towers in the Enfield borough of London.

Unit Plan

In the proposal by Reed Watts founders Matt Watts and Jim Reed, the panels left over from these two tower blocks would not go to waste.

"Rather than letting the panels be sent to landfill or incinerated, the project proposes that they be re-used in a creative way," Watts said in an interview.

According to the architecture firm’s idea, the panels could be used to create tiny, low-tech living spaces in disused buildings. While they would be similar in size to a tent—which is what migrant workers have been living in, in parks and underpasses—these units could be more safely grouped together to create communities of friends and family.

"Working frugally with the panels available, we have designed a module that will allow us to create 12 cohorts of eight rooms—space for 96 people. The modules can be built in a few minutes and arranged in different configurations to suit the location," Watts noted.

There would also be flexibility to customize the low-tech space, with the flexibility to put shelves, mirrors and other items in pre-existing nooks.

Almost everything in the unit could be made from reclaimed materials—except for a mattress and other fixtures.

In the design, there would also be a curtain for privacy, along with a lockbox for residents to store personal items. There would also be flexibility to customize the low-tech space, with the flexibility to put shelves, mirrors and other items in pre-existing nooks. The team also noted that individual boards could be cleaned or replaced if they became damaged. When the occupant vacated the unit, the whole thing could be disassembled and repurposed.

"Rather than explore complex or expensive technological solutions, we felt it important to propose an idea that can be realized almost immediately with little cost or design development. The raw materials exist and the design can easily be tailored to suit other sheet materials that might become available in the future,” Reed and Watts said.

Solution to Immigrant Housing Crisis

According to research conducted by Thames Reach, which was funded by Commweal Housing, in 2015 to 2016, over 1,500 Romanians were caught rough sleeping in London. This is a jump from 2012 to 2013, where there was just over 490.

The cause? Lack of affordable rental options.

Commonweal started the design contest in order to find a solution.

These panels are still in good condition, and Reed Watts has created a design called the Flat Pack, which could turn these old panels into new short-term housing solutions for immigrants.

"When we launched this competition, we didn't know what the right housing solution to address the social injustices associated with this very specific group of migrant workers might look like," Russ Edwards, charity trustee, said.

According to Commonweal’s website, the purpose of the competition was to find a viable solution that was a demountable, reusable, short-term accommodation option that could be used within existing buildings.

"It is fantastic that the brief captured the imaginations of the design fraternity in such a way," Edwards said.

"In particular, the designers' ability to address the specific challenges associated with the group of working migrants the competition aimed to support, moving beyond the functional requirements in the brief, is to be commended."

   

Tagged categories: Green building; Green design; Housing; Infrastructure

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