The housing crisis in the UK is one of the biggest social and economic challenges facing the country. According to government figures 122,950 new homes were built in England in 2013, a rise of almost 25% on the previous years. However, this is still well below the 300,000 figure some estimate need to be built every year in order to avoid a national shortfall of 2 million homes by 2020.
The effects of this shortfall are clear to see, particularly in London. Spiralling house prices and rents, constricted supply and accelerated personal debt are just some of the negative consequences, most of which are felt in the affordable housing sector.
UK Faces National Shortfall of 2 Million Homes by 2020
Homelessness charity Centrepoint estimates that England will need to build almost 1 million affordable homes over the next seven years to avoid the situation reaching crisis point. In fact, just 42,830 homes were built last year, an annual decrease of 26% from 2012.
The world's largest McDonald's constructed for the 2012 Olympics in London
Now it would appear that there is a possible solution to the UK's housing crisis. By using the same technology used in the construction of the world's largest McDonald's and adapting it to build temporary, highly flexible, 100% recyclable housing.
Structures manufacturer Neptunus were commissioned to build what was the largest ever McDonald's outlet for the 2012 Olympics in east London. Apart from its size, (300m², 1,500 seats and two-storeys) the most unique aspect of this building was its temporary nature, designed to be operating for just two months before being dismantled at the end of the Games.
Temporary Housing Provides an Affordable Quick-Fix
The same technology used to build the McDonald's temporary structure has now been adapted by Neptunus and applied to a housing solution. In early June 2014, Neptunus completed a new housing block, Irenehof which opened in Limburg in the Netherlands, providing sixteen 30m² one-bed and four 60m² two-bed apartments.
The Irenehof temporary housing unit in Limburg, Netherlands
Designed to provide short-term emergency accommodation for immigrants, young people unable to get on the housing ladder or others in difficult domestic circumstances, Irenehof was developed and built by Neptunus as a joint venture between the local authority and housing association. The duration of the accommodation will be for two years, the maximum residents are able to stay in the property.
Irenehof is virtually impossible to distinguish from a permanent building, yet has the capacity to be dismantled and re-assembled at other locations. The speed of construction is significantly less than traditional builds, taking just 14 weeks to construct the temporary housing solution.
100% Reclyclable, Semi-Permanent Buildings
The radical new temporary housing concept provides housing in fully recyclable, semi-permanent buildings that can last from a few months through to 20 years. On the back of the project's success, Neptunus is now presenting their housing concept as a possible solution to the affordable housing crisis in the UK.
Dutch firm Neptunus have been specialising in temporary structures since 1937, "supplying marquees and accommodation for top events in addition to demountable structures for numerous semi-permanent applications", according to the company's website.
Inside the Irenehof temporary structure
The technology developed by Neptunus has resulted in their temporary structures being aesthetically almost indistinguishable from permanent buildings, crucial in order to appeal to any potential market. In terms of colour, composition and materials a significant amount of customisation is possible on its exterior and the quality of internal finishes and spaces also offer no signs of the buildings' temporary nature.
Irenehof has been a resounding success with Limburg councillors, hailing it as the perfect solution for an erratic housing demand and Neptunus believe their temporary buildings could help address the housing shortage in the UK.
UK Affordable Housing Crisis Needs Long-Term Solution
However, opinion is divided amongst property experts in the UK. Mark Farmer, head of private residential at EC Harris says that temporary housing is not the solution to the UK's housing crisis.
"It's missing the point; the issue with the UK market is under-supply, not lifespan. The industry could certainly take lessons here with regard to prefabrication costs and programme – it's crazy that so much is still built on site, which is labour intensive and expensive. But what we really need is a low-cost permanent housing solution. We need to build more for less."
In terms of cost, Neptunus' solution is clearly cheaper and more timely in construction, saving more expense but it would only go some way to easing the UK's housing crisis and ultimately, temporary buildings would have to be replaced with permanent structures to provide longer term sustainability in the housing market.
- Tuesday 01 July 2014