App shows viability of modular housing for sites

A new app for smart phones and tablets to help developers and housing associations assess the viability of modular housing on development sites has been launched by the mayor of London.

The Prism housing design app has been developed by design practice Bryden Wood, building on work by building consultant Cast and in collaboration with the mayor of London’s office.

It is a response to a call from the London Assembly planning committee in 2017 for better design guidance to enable the wider adoption of manufactured homes to speed up supply.

The app therefore combines the mayor of London’s spatial planning rules with modular housing manufacturers’ expertise to allow architects, local authority planners and developers to determine viable options for their site. The mayor has helped create the tool as part of a commitment to achieving ambitious housebuilding targets, in recognition that traditional construction methods alone will not solve London’s housing  crisis.

James Murray, deputy mayor for housing and residential development, said: “We need to build far more housing in London – and particularly more council, social rented, and other genuinely affordable homes.

“Even if we had all the investment and powers we need, traditional construction techniques will only take us so far. That’s why the mayor has been working with key industry players to develop ‘Prism’ – a new housing design app, which is the first of its kind in the world, and which will give a vital boost to the precision manufacturing of homes.”

Jami Cresser-Brown, architecture director at Bryden Wood, commented: “Technology has revolutionised so many sectors from finance to automotive and it is time for the construction sector to do the same. This is the only way that we will be able to meet demand for housing and other social infrastructure.

“The scale of the challenge is so great that we will only succeed if we work together. We have deliberately opted to make this app open-sourced so that anyone can play a role in the design process and its next stages of innovation.”

The  app is free and does not require specialist knowledge to use.

In practical terms, the app allows the user to plot a building outline on a map, inputting information such as desired number of different sized units, floor height etc. The in-built logic then optimises the layout of units and internal apartment layouts for precision manufactured methods (for example by standardising room sizes and aligning wall partitions which play a significant role in optimally designing for volumetric or panellised systems).

Labour’s London Assembly planning spokesperson, Nicky Gavron AM, said: “With the launch of Prism, City Hall is setting a world first and spearheading a transformation of the construction industry to meet one of the biggest global challenges, namely, how to build more sustainable homes, better and faster.

“This free-to-use and open source digital design app builds on the recommendations of a report that I led on for the London Assembly planning committee, Designed, sealed, delivered, which examined how Precision Manufactured Housing could help to solve the capital’s housing crisis.

“The mayor’s investment in this tool has helped to create a framework that will drive collaboration and innovation, while keeping costs down and speeding up construction. Prism will open up new opportunities, particularly on constrained urban sites. 

“London has a huge need for affordable homes, and this has the potential to spark the step-change in delivery we need to achieve this.”

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