Ecobuild latest: Bill Dunster on his Zedpods and Igloo on floating homes

A number of developers, architects and investors have revealed their plans for custom housing and off-site construction at the Ecobuild conference.

Regeneration developer Igloo is planning to build floating custom-built houses on the Thames in east London.

Executive chairman Chris Brown revealed the target as part of the developer’s plan to deliver large-scale custom-build housing developments, which would be connected to community energy networks. 

He told the Ecobuild conference at the ExCel: “When you come back next year or the year after that, we hope that you’ll see floating outside of ExCel some custom build houses linked up to a community energy grid.”

The firm has been selected by the Homes and Communities Agency to deliver a pilot scheme of custom-build homes as part of a new neighbourhood at Trevenson Park near Redruth in Cornwall.

Brown revealed Igloo also has plans to develop custom-build schemes in Nottingham and Glasgow.

On the same panel, Debbie Hobbs, sustainability manager of Legal & General Property, revealed more details about its modular housing factory in Leeds, which will be the largest in Europe when completed.

Currently being built inside a warehouse, the factory is set to produce its first homes by June and could eventually build up to 3,000 homes a year for the build-to-rent market.

Hobbs said off-site manufacture of modular housing can address sustainability. “Hopefully you can address affordability because you’re producing modules in a factory, whatever the design is like,” she said. “You can also address labour issues and timescales. Once the infrastructure is in place, [the homes] can go in very quickly.”

Barratt’s head of corporate sustainability, Sarah Pratt, was also speaking at the conference and revealed the volume housebuilder is also looking at other construction methods.

She said: “The housing crisis does mean we need to build faster, but we also have to diversify our construction techniques.

“We need to look at alternative methods of construction. We are looking at a range of possibilities at a number of our sites.”

Head of asset sustainability at housing association Affinity Sutton, Alex Willey, said the organisation is still in merger talks with Circle Housing, and added that the proposed new social housing provider is aiming to deliver 5,000 new homes a year by 2020.

Zedpods - homes above car parks

Architect Bill Dunster has revealed plans to roll out up to 1,000 zero carbon flatpack homes a year – built on stilts above car parks.

Called Zedpods and developed by Dunster’s sustainable design firm Zedfactory, the affordable homes would be located in major cities, with assembly taking only a week.    

Zedfactory joins heavyweight firms including Legal & General, Urban Splash and Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners that have all unveiled plans to deliver thousands of modular homes in recent weeks.

Single pods are expected to go on the market for £35,000 with double pods costing £65,000. Dunster estimates the construction cost will be between £35,000 and £45,000 per pod.

He said: “We have kit that produces the homes, it doesn’t require any advanced manufacturing. We can produce 5,000 a year if we wanted to.”

Dunster confirmed he is currently looking at sites in London, Cardiff, Oxford and Bath for the first homes, and is aiming them at young professionals priced out of the housing market to “get them living where they work”.