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28 October 2014

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Architecture Week 2004
My first module
Words: Bren O'Callaghan
MOHO © ShedKM & Urban Splash

Britain's booming housing market has left many potential first time buyers unable to gain a toehold. MOHO, a new scheme by Liverpool based architects ShedKM may help provide that leg-up and transform the residential landscape of the UK in the process.

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Shed KM

Urban Splash

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In recent years some of Liverpool's most notable buildings have been rescued from dereliction by developer Urban Splash.

The Collegiate
The Collegiate, Liverpool © ShedKM

Working primarily within the North West, projects such as The Collegiate kick-started a trend for city living via stylish regeneration.

A former Victorian school designed by Harvey Lansdale Elves, the architect responsible for St Georges Hall, local firm ShedKM were recruited to implement a bold, contemporary interior.

James Weston, Director of ShedKM with a brief history of the practice.
Click here to listen

Now the pair have again joined forces to address the lack of affordable, city-centre homes for first time buyers and key workers who find themselves priced out of the market.

MOHO, an acronym for 'modular homes' is the result.

"The scheme provides complete modules, entirely self-contained and finished units," explains James Weston, Director of ShedKM.

Moho: kitchen view
Moho: kitchen view

"The floor finishes are down, all the plasterwork is done, it's painted, the kitchen and bathroom's in - a completely pre-finished unit that is lifted into site."

The first private sector residential homes to be mass produced in this way, a debut scheme is currently underway in Manchester where 102 units are stacked at a rate of 6 per day to form a multi-storey structure.

"Moho spiralled out of an initial brief... which was to provide tighter, smaller city centre accommodation"
Click here to listen

The complex is expected to reach completion within two months of the first unit arriving on site; an underground car-park having been completed during the manufacturing process to maximise efficiency.

Fiona Woodward
Urban Splash marketing director Fiona Woodward gives one of the completed apartments a final check in the factory

"Everyone thinks it's an incredible hi-tech way of building something but all we're doing is using the same, traditional building components," explains James Weston.

Pre-fab architecture has typically been limited to the commercial sector and hotel trade where fast build projects are prone to increasing demand.

More recently, housing associations such as The Peabody Trust have experimented with pre-fab homes.

"Housing associations have tended to roadtest more innovative solutions"
Click here to listen

One reason for this is that they lend themselves to eco-friendly options such as solar cells and rainwater recycling systems; which can be costly and difficult to implement in renovated housing stock.

Moho: interior courtyard
Moho - private interior courtyard

The stigma that once affected high-rise living due to dilapidated sixties towers and resulting social problems is now rapidly on the decline.

"Historically in the UK, everyone has wanted their own their own individual house. But in the past ten years, apartment schemes have started to fluorish," reflects James Weston.

"The flats that went up after the war were of poor construction and led to problems that have marred perceptions of high-rise living.

"The first apartment of the day arrives at 8.30am - they subsequently arrive on lorries every 1and a half hours"
Click here to listen

"Yet if you pop over the channel to Paris, people predominantly live in apartments.

"Appetites are different. It's no longer seen as undesirable.

"Tastes are starting to change."

James Weston & Nick Birch
Shed KM director James Weston (left) & Moho Project Architect, Nick Birch

All of the apartments have an external balcony, while the one-bed plus and two bed include a glazed dining 'pod'. Utilities and storage space are concealed behind sliding doors.

Prices start at £143,000 up to £200,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. Included in the cost is a range of designer furniture, from the sofa and bed to a washing machine and fitted kitchen.

It is hoped that MOHO will extend to the rest of the North West and across the UK - particularly the South East and London.

Fourth Grace
"People have started to discover modern design and are living in apartment schemes again"
Click here to listen

There a shortage of starter properties coupled with soaring prices has paralyzed the lower end of the market.

Although still out of reach for many, as projects such as this increase and the construction phase becomes standard, as opposed to unusual, it is hoped that all budgets will be catered for.

After all, in Scandinavia the furniture chain IKEA already provide flat pack kit homes in addition to the sea of tea lights and laminate coffee tables.

The day approaches when your shopping list might include a starter home alongside the toilet rolls.

Just be sure to choose a matching shade.


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