Move over, IKEA, this British developer is building flat-pack homes

Manchester might be best known to its cousins across the pond for its famous football teams and its infamous music scenes but due to rapid growth, the world’s first industrialized city is being transformed (again) right before everyone’s eyes. And one innovative developer is turning to ultramodern building technologies that include smart home technology, modular construction, and what some have called “flat-pack” homes that resemble something one might buy at IKEA but also operate as fully functional living spaces.

The U.K. developer Urban Splash, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, is building a new set of smart homes that are set to arrive in Manchester later this year. The project, launched in partnership with the award-winning architecture firm Shedkm, is called Mansion House and will feature single-entrance apartment blocks that consist of between eight and ten homes.

The construction is groundbreaking compared to the traditional construction method used in regeneration projects of this type. Each apartment in Mansion House uses panels for walls, which enables construction crews to simply click the slots together just as one might assemble a piece of flat pack furniture. Interestingly, the inner walls are non-load-bearing, which gives the occupants the option of reconfiguring the layout even after construction has been completed.

To start, these future homeowners simply choose a layout, from among nine different configurations, that meets their needs, with choices ranging from a two-bedroom arrangement with a fully equipped kitchen to a completely empty layout with a simple kitchen that offers an ambiance close to loft living in a big city. With just two apartments per shared hallway, Mansion House units will offer large windows on both sides as well as dramatic views over the New Islington Marina.

In addition, Urban Splash has directed its architects to build smart home technology directly into each unit in what is a rare change for a new-build project. Homeowners will have access to a variety of features including app-enabled wireless control over their lighting, heating, and hot water. Urban Splash’s chosen smart home platform is the Lightwave Control System, which is also compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, for those residents who are prone to conversing with their smart speakers or digital assistants.

Ian McKillick, Director of Shedkm, told the Manchester Evening News, “Our starting point for Mansion House was to challenge and rethink the trend toward larger, monolithic, and increasingly impersonal apartment blocks and towers springing up in our towns and cities. Instead we have focused on creating great places to live – and, whilst the aesthetics are important – the design of Mansion House blocks mean that we are evoking community living and encouraging neighborly living.”

Urban Splash recently completed and sold out Town House, a series of modular apartment communities that were built in factories and then craned onto construction sites. The developer is also in the process of building an enormous modular housing project in the relatively new community of Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, which will eventually consist of 440 homes. Urban Splash won the job in a competition that will require the builder to complete eight homes per month.

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