Two University of Brighton graduates designed the UK’s largest temporary accommodation development – which provided emergency accommodation for up to 288 people before Christmas.
John Smith and Roman Schneker both studied architectural technology at Brighton University and now run Cityzen, the Sustainable Architecture & Engineering practice in Portslade. They said seeing the faces of people entering their new homes was “incredibly motivating”.
They designed the development reusing shipping containers, for Sussex based developers QED. The 60-apartments delivered in Acton, West London, for Ealing Council include 32 with two bedrooms, 20 with one bedroom and also eight studio homes. Each has its own kitchenette, shower room, and front door. There will also be a management office and laundry unit.
The apartments are based around Cityzen’s modular design of one, two and three adjoining units. Cityzen produced 315 drawings and each container build was tracked from the design process, through to the factory construction and to delivery on site. Cityzen designed not only the apartments but the building services in the apartments, and utilities to site.
John said: “It was a tough challenge, given just 10 months from first concept sketch to tenants moving in, and we’re proud to have played a part in helping Ealing Council provide homes before Christmas for people who would otherwise be in B&Bs or moved to another borough.”
John started out as a building services engineer but was continually being asked to look at the fabric and design of building to improve the performance. He saw that energy and sustainability were coming to the fore in the building industry so in 2003 he moved to Brighton to train at the University. Roman studied the same course at the School of Environment and Technology as he wanted to engage with the science of architecture and how buildings are built.
John said: “Both of us found the course helped with our career progression, and since graduating we have both become Chartered Members of the Institute of Architectural Technologists.”
John started Cityzen in 2010 and it became a limited company in 2017. John and Cityzen have mentored six placement students from the University of Brighton. Roman was one of these students and he later joined Cityzen as a Senior Architectural Technologist. For the past year he has been leading technical design on the firm’s modular and housing projects.
John has been working on container designs since 2005, being the subject of his dissertation. Cityzen have been assisting QED developing container design solutions since 2012. John said: “Working with QED has enabled us to see the opportunities and challenges that reusing shipping containers bring.”
The Acton development has a seven-year site use lifespan. After that time the units will be dismantled and taken to another site.
John said: “The team therefore has had to think not only how to build it quickly, exceeding building regulations, but how will it will then be dismantled and reused.
Roman said: “The project has been satisfying both professionally and personally. We’ve addressed various shipping container and site technical challenges. And when you see residents visit their new home, with their own front door providing them with the security and stability that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted, it’s an incredible motivator for the whole team.”
The development in Acton is the latest step to address emergency housing in the capital. London needs 66,000 new homes a year to meet growing needs and many of the spaces to build on are complex brownfield sites. Added to this 14,400 households between April and June 2017 were considered homeless and 78,000 households in the same period in temporary accommodation, up 7% from the previous year.
Meath Court, Hope Gardens in Acton is a 60 apartment development created using offsite manufactured homes (OSM). The development includes communal space, onsite management office, laundry and refuse storage and will house young families and low-income individuals in need of immediate emergency accommodation.
The Acton development was constructed in 24 weeks by property company, QED and is made up of a kit of moveable and reusable parts of UK produced shipping containers, providing an immediate solution to the short-term accommodation need.
Ross Gilbert, Managing Director, of Property Company QED said: “We are committed to playing our part in addressing the housing crisis. We need short, medium and long term solutions and Meath Court is a short term solution to emergency accommodation.
“Throughout the planning and public consultation of the development we have ensured that Meath Court provides emergency accommodation that has its own kitchen, bathroom and front door which is safe and secure, all features that many emergency accommodation solutions don’t provide.
“Meath Court is made up of a kit of moveable and reusable parts of UK produced shipping containers, on a redundant urban site whilst more permanent developments are underway.”
Ealing Council has 2242 households residing in temporary accommodation and a steady decline in the availability of suitable options, particularly in-borough. Hope Gardens was previously an underused brownfield site in Ealing which has been identified for long term redevelopment post 2024.
Councillor Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council, said: “Ealing Council has been proactive about the situation and have had to find another source of housing as there has been an increase in residents asking for assistance. Working with QED allows the council to move residents in need into a new form of temporary accommodation until longer term options become available.
“As we all know, the housing crisis in the capital is increasingly becoming worse as stated in the recently published draft London Plan and the council is exploring all options to keep on top of the growing demand.”
For more information about University of Brighton alumni, go to: www.brighton.ac.uk/alumni