Location Leeds, West Yorkshire
Date September 2018
Homes built 7 factory built houses
St Hilda’s is a development of 7 two storey houses located in Leeds, West Yorkshire. It was constructed as the result of a partnership between Leeds City Council and the Together Housing Association, and represented the second development of high quality affordable homes delivered by OSCO Homes using an innovative offsite-manufacturing (OSM) method.
Previously, Together Housing had completed Fewston Court, 21 family homes for rent which were constructed in 2015 and completely transformed an area which had become a blight on the surrounding neighbourhood and a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
Following the completion of Fewston Court, a strip of land between the new homes, known as St Hilda’s Crescent, was the location of 3 pairs of privately owned semi-detached homes with derelict plots of land in-between them. These plots had been used as storage sites by a previous contractor, and Together Housing seized the opportunity to take this wasteland and use it to complete the regeneration of the area by building high quality homes.
Any homes built on the site in question had to be in keeping with the existing properties. This meant that the first option was to submit a traditional building scheme for planning permission, but the problems with this kind of scheme soon became apparent. The constraints of the site and the lack of space in which to work meant that delivering the homes using traditional methods – particularly while trying to minimise disruption for existing tenants – would prove to be highly problematic. Having worked with OSCO Homes to deliver the Lockies development of desirable, high quality homes, Together Housing reached out to us again to see if there was a way of delivering the homes which would work within the constraints of the site, bring the project in within budget and guarantee the quality of the finished homes. The answer we gave to this was a resounding yes.
Together Housing had already worked with Acanthus WSM Architects to draw up plans based on traditional construction techniques which had received planning permission. Given the length of time still available before the start date of the scheme, and the fact that we’d worked together successfully before, Together Housing were more than happy for OSCO Homes to take these existing plans and optimise them for OSM. This meant simultaneously improving the architectural details of the plans and optimising the overall cost of the project. In short, we took the plan as it was and turned it into an OSCO Homes plan – one which could deliver the kind high quality houses that people are happy to call home.
The key to the OSCO Homes approach is the fact that the homes we construct are made up of wall, ceiling and floor panels manufactured in factory conditions before being transported to the site to be assembled as homes. The OSM approach ensures consistency, eliminates the kind of bad weather and other site related issues that so often delay construction projects, and allows us to deliver completed homes at a speed which traditional construction simply can’t match.
Initially, each home is modelled in a 3D environment something which, on other occasions, allows eventual homeowners to have direct input into the design of their homes at the earliest possible stage. On this occasion, the modelling reflected the OSCO Homes modification of the original plans, and was detailed enough to include factors such as boarding, cladding and fixings. Once the design had been finalised, detailed plans were sent to our suppliers for manufacturing and component parts then came back to our factory to be assembled.
The light gauge steel frames, once assembled, could then be finished with brickwork, render or cladding on the basis of manufacturing instructions derived from the 3D model. The seamless nature of the process means that homes can be modelled in 3D, tweaked and adapted as the end client or home owner desires and then manufactured in a consistent, controllable environment.
At each stage of the process, the work done has to be checked and signed off, something which continues until the home in question has been completed. The speed with which the panels could be assembled once they had been delivered to the site is a vital aspect of the OSCO Homes approach. It keeps costs down, minimises disruption, ensures delivery to the deadline specified and helps to mitigate the problems often caused to UK house builders by wet weather.
The steel frames themselves are constructed in such a manner that they can only actually be put together in one way – the correct way. This means that problems which might normally occur on site are actually eliminated at the design and manufacturing stage of the process. The end result is that OSCO Homes offer flexibility – in terms of the design of individual units and the locations in which they can be constructed – far beyond the reach of conventional construction.
Andy Hatcliffe, Major Projects Manager at the National House-Building Council (NHBC) commented “In terms of on-time delivery and a minimal number of reportable items, this project was very successful. The site team were a pleasure to work with, always attentive and keen to take on advice and act upon it.
Much of the challenge of the St Hilda’s project lay in the nature of the site itself. The fact that the land being built on was sandwiched between a row of existing houses mean that the issues to be worked around included narrow access routes, overhead cables, existing lamp posts and only enough space for a very limited site cabin and welfare area.
In addition to this, the local residents had to be protected, as much as possible, from the kind of disruption associated with construction projects. In both respects, the OSCO Homes OSM approach proved to represent the ideal solution. The construction methods employed meant that no scaffolding had to be used and the raw material of the houses could be delivered to the relatively inaccessible site quickly and simply. With delivery and construction being honed throughout the process, the speed and standard of workmanship started high and then moved higher, and the last pair of semi-detached homes, from factory manufacturing to finished construction, took only six weeks. Compared to a traditional build, the number of hours spent by workers on the site itself was reduced by 40%.
OSCO Homes believe in creating genuinely desirable homes in every kind of location without cutting corners or accepting anything less than the highest quality. The homes built for the St Hilda’s project were an excellent example of our approach delivering in every respect. The project as a whole was completed within the projected time frame, and the quality of the work was such that Together Housing took possession of the units just one week after handover.
Mohammad Badiee, Project Manager, was clearly impressed: “The speed and quality achieved as the homes came together towards the end of the project was impressive.”
Perhaps the final word, however, should go to the person we always regard as the most important of all – the person who makes their home in a high quality OSCO Homes building. In this case, Mrs Mia Fay Maudson, a St Hilda’s resident, made it plain that she feels that we build the kind of houses people genuinely want to call home: “My new home is nice and cosy, I would recommend an OSCO house 100%.”