Case studies

Norwood Road, March, Cambridgeshire

SmartLife is a prototype rural social housing development that tests MMC systems. It comprises 56 units, with a mix of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom houses.

Client Home Group
Contractor Inspace Partnerships
Contract Sum £6.3m
Eco/Code Very Good

The project

SmartLife is a European initiative between Sweden, Germany and the UK for sustainable community growth. It is designed to promote and study modern methods of construction verses the traditional form of building.

In Cambridgeshire, three sites were chosen, the largest of which Churchill Hui was invited to design. The main RSL was Home Group, other participating UK organisations included English Partnerships, Fenland District Council, the BRE, and the Housing Corporation.

Our role

Our role called for close consultation with other architects and partners in the scheme, including local residents. A range of standardised house types was developed with layouts suitable for MMC and volumetric construction. While other sites studied timber frame and in situ concrete systems, ours was based on a lightweight steel frame and traditional construction.

Our specialist design skills enabled us to utilise standard plan types, integrating them into an efficient site layout using ‘Homezone’ principles. This followed guidance from street manuals, resulting in a cost effective design solution with a ring road allowing phased construction and minimising time loss and site mess.

Our in-house experience of the issues and benefits of MMC and volumetric construction enabled us to generate a quick and clear working drawing package. This identified and standardised repetitious details, while retaining a strong aesthetic identity.

The result

The BRE now has data for a definitive assessment of the advantages and potential limitations of each construction approach. It highlights the success of the Norwood Road project as the most efficient, with the lightweight gauge steel and traditional forms of construction delivering cost effective results. It also found that the steel system provided substantial reductions to man-hour build times compared to all the other methods.