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By John Biggs
April 8, 2019
Homeowner trends and tastes change, and highly customized living spaces is a frequent demand of many buyers today. This presents a challenge for developers, who must cater to those very specific demands while also creating homes whose layouts will appeal to a diverse range of homebuyers in the coming years and decades, when current trends end and new ones begin.
U.K. developer Urban Splash might just have a best-of-both-worlds solution, with a line of ultra-modern, modular smart homes within which even the walls can be reconfigured. The firm, in partnership with award-winning architecture firm Shedkm, is set to roll out the first in its series of new single-entrance apartment blocks by this summer, perhaps fittingly in Manchester, the first city on earth to be industrialized.
The project, dubbed Mansion House, will consist of 8-to-10 unit modular apartment blocks, each custom-assembled and outfitted with the latest in smart home technology. The architect says the concept behind Mansion House, as well as its design, is in part to foster a feeling of community and rekindle the disappearing art of interacting with neighbors.
“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,” Ian McKillick, Director of Shedkm told the Manchester Evening News.
The units include shared hallways and built-in communal spaces intended to be decorated and utilized jointly between neighbors.
The buildings are also designed with the environment in mind, using sustainable and better-insulating materials, electricity generated in part from rooftop solar panels, and minimizing waste in the construction phase by building everything to order offsite.
When the first units go on sale, slated for later this year, prospective Mansion House residents will have nine different home layouts to choose from. Since the internal walls are movable, non-load bearing panels, work crews only have to snap them into place to change configurations. Digital Trends compared the process to assembling a piece of IKEA furniture, which usually comes “flat packed” in as small a box as possible.
Once moved in, occupants will have the option to freely change the location of walls as their tastes, needs, or family sizes change. Interior configuration options offered by Mansion House will range from a more traditional two-bedroom layout with a large kitchen to a loft-type space with a more modest kitchen and an airy, wide-open aesthetic. Since each floor of Mansion House will only have two units, it offers a lot of flexibility for residents to change their apartment’s internal layout, without requiring any construction or demolition.
Smart Home Features
As a standard feature, each unit will also have an assortment of built-in smart home options, according to Digital Trends, including wireless control over lighting, security, and water and heating systems, as well as voice control using digital home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit.
Mansion House’s launch coincides with Urban Splash’s 25th anniversary, and follows its recent successful launch of Town House, a project consisting of rows of two- or three-story modular apartments produced entirely offsite in factories and transported to construction sites to be assembled with cranes. The company says the units quickly sold out in Manchester, Salford and North Shields, but more locations are planned for future openings.
IKEA's innovations around modularity and flat-packing became the company's big brand differentiator and changed the way we buy furniture almost overnight. It will be a space to watch in construction as methods and technology improve.
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