Mak­ing a splash dou­ble quick with new fac­tory-built homes

Re­gen­er­a­tion spe­cial­ist Ur­ban Splash is plan­ning to bring its fash­ion­able fac­tory-made houses to York­shire. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

UR­BAN SPLASH is a small com­pany with a big rep­u­ta­tion for con­vert­ing derelict and unloved build­ings into the coolest places to live and work.

Next week, the Ur­ban Splash team, in­clud­ing York­shire­based man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Si­mon Gawthorpe, will be in Cannes at MIPIM, an event that brings to­gether the world’s most in­flu­en­tial prop­erty peo­ple. Its aim is to woo lo­cal au­thor­i­ties with its lat­est bright idea.

Best known for con­vert­ing mills, ware­houses and run-down coun­cil flats into de­sign-led apart­ments and work spa­ces, the re­gen­er­a­tion spe­cial­ist has branched out into fam­ily hous­ing. True to form, the de­signs are cut­ting edge rather than con­ven­tional.

The mod­u­lar homes, which have been branded hoUSe, of­fer moder­nity and flex­i­ble liv­ing space. Built and fit­ted out by Der­byshire-based In­sul­shell, they are craned on to site in sec­tions. Buy­ers can play at “Grand De­signs” by choos­ing how to con­fig­ure the in­te­ri­ors to suit their needs, and eight weeks later their home is ready to move into.

Ur­ban Splash says it is fill­ing a gap in the mar­ket: “We want to reignite the na­tion’s ap­petite for new-build. It’s some­thing buy­ers have grown tired of thanks to iden­tikit red box build­ing from mass de­vel­op­ers, which of­fers lim­ited choice or flex­i­bil­ity.”

A trial devel­op­ment in Manch­ester has proved suc­cess­ful and now the com­pany is ready to roll out the fac­to­ry­built houses to the rest of the coun­try with an am­bi­tion of erect­ing 2,000 mod­u­lar homes a year.

Leeds, York, Brad­ford and Wake­field are on Si­mon Gawthorpe’s radar as ideal lo­ca­tions. “The idea is that we part­ner with lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and build on public sec­tor brownfield land on the city fringe in ar­eas that would benefit from re­gen­er­a­tion,” he says.

Ur­ban Splash part­nered with ar­chi­tects shedkm to de­sign and de­velop the in­su­lated tim­ber framed ter­raced hoUSes, which are clad in fi­bre ce­ment board. Cus­tomers choose from either a 1,000 or 1,500 sq ft prop­erty with high ceil­ings and big win­dows as stan­dard.

Buy­ers de­cide whether they want their liv­ing room on the top floor with an ex­posed pitched roof or on the ground floor. They can opt for open-plan space or a se­ries of sep­a­rate rooms and can choose ex­tras, in­clud­ing a kitchen, floor fin­ishes, utility rooms and home of­fices. Or they can fit out the shell them­selves.

“We send the or­der to the fac­tory and, at the mo­ment, it takes four-and-a-half weeks to con­struct but that will come down to 14 days as we in­crease vol­ume and ef­fi­ciency. The prop­erty is then taken to site on the back of a lorry and craned into po­si­tion,” says Si­mon. “Within ten years, this way of build­ing will be the norm.”

As the homes are built off­site, con­struc­tion costs re­main con­stant.

The qual­ity of fin­ish is bet­ter and the process is far quicker than on-site build­ing. At the mo­ment, mod­u­lar homes are about 10 per cent more ex­pen­sive to pro­duce than con­ven­tional new-builds but that fig­ure is ex­pected to fall with economies of scale.

The gov­ern­ment re­cently an­nounced its sup­port for off­site con­struc­tion and one of the big­gest man­u­fac­tur­ers will be in York­shire. Le­gal and Gen­eral’s fac­tory in Sher­burn-in-El­met is due to open soon and aims to pro­duce 3,000 homes a year.

“We started work­ing on our project five years ago, so we are well ahead of most other com­pa­nies,” says Si­mon Gawthorpe. “We are up and run­ning and we have lenders com­pa­nies on board happy to of­fer mort­gages on our prop­er­ties.”

The first devel­op­ment of 43 hoUSes in New Is­ling­ton has won 11 awards and prices started at £275,000 for a two-storey house. A sec­ond site, Ir­well River­side in Manch­ester, has also sold out and 34 hoUSes at Smith’s Dock in North Shields are about to be re­leased for sale.

“I’d really like to think that we’ll be on site in York­shire next year,” says Si­mon, who also has the task of over­see­ing the grad­ual con­ver­sion of Lis­ter Mills in Brad­ford into flats and work space and guid­ing the gar­gan­tuan Park Hill flats scheme in Sh­effield to com­ple­tion.

The 12-year project to trans­form Park Hill’s grade II listed for­mer crime-rid­den coun­cil es­tate into a de­sir­able ad­dress and cul­tural hub is due for com­ple­tion in 2022.

NEW HOUSES: The first devel­op­ment of 43 hoUSes in New Is­ling­ton where buy­ers can cus­tomise the space. Homes be­ing craned onto site in North Shields. Park Hill, Sh­effield, cen­tre.

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