New 'WikiHouse' that could solve housing crisis to be trialled in Yorkshire

Tuesday, 3rd October 2017, 10:23 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 9:41 am

The first models of a new affordable house type designed do solve the national shortage of homes could soon be built in Sheffield.

South Yorkshire Housing Association, or SYHA, wants to use the ‘WikiHouse’ template for two homes on a site in St Philip’s Road, Upperthorpe.

The houses will fit in with the look of those next door.

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The idea, from architect Alastair Parvin, is to use a plywood frame that is cut to shape off site before being brought to the location and put together like a jigsaw.

While SYHA has only revealed plans for two homes at this stage, the hope is if they are successful the WikiHouse model could be used for much larger scale developments.

Business development director Miranda Plowden said: “Across the country there is a massive shortage of housing, and Sheffield is no different. “Between 2011 and 2015 alone there were 7,000 too few homes built to meet demand in Sheffield alone. Put simply we aren’t building enough and we need to do something about it. The site in St Philip's Road, Upperthorpe.

“As a housing association we have a responsibility to do our bit. We’ve already got ambitious plans to build 1,180 new homes by 2021, but we want to do more.

“In the past we’ve looked at how we can shave costs off traditional building methods to help us build more.

“What we’re doing now is looking at new innovative construction types which might enable us to build faster, or lower our build costs, which means we’d be able to build more homes.”

Although the initial WikiHouse designs were fairly modern in appearance, the Sheffield models will be traditional and should fit in with the rest of the street. The planning application says the fibre-cement boards used to clad the timber frame are ‘suitable for the urban residential context’.

“The WikiHouse method uses plywood frames which are cut off-site on a CNC machine and assembled like a jigsaw on-site," added Ms Plowden. “It’s produced by a local maker, Chop Shop, and what makes it different is that it doesn’t require any special skills to construct, as all of the panels are cut to fit together.

“We’ll be building the first two storey, semi-detached WikiHouses in the country to test how the method works and whether it could be the answer we’re looking for.

“It’s just one of a number of different construction methods we’re piloting across South Yorkshire, and we’re looking forward to seeing if any of them could be scaled up to enable us to build the homes we desperately need.”

A recent study by Homes for the North, an alliance of the 19 largest housing associations across the north of England, showed the Sheffield region will need at least 5,395 homes built per year for the next 10 years in order to meet demand.

SYHA chief executive Tony Stacey OBE said the area was not short of house building land but was not attractive enough to developers.