The latest answer to the London housing shortage is unveiled today by a top UK architect — homes built on stilts above parking spaces. Bill Dunster, founder of award-winning architecture practice Zed Factory, has devised the ZEDpod concept of cheap, space-saving houses and flats raised on supports above car parks.
His prefabricated pod homes, which measure a cosy 242sq ft, would cost about £60,000 each to build. The average London first-time buyer currently spends about £350,000 on a home.
“We could easily build 1,000 of these in every London borough just on council-owned car parks,” says Dunster. “And that is before we look at supermarkets, schools, hospitals, all of which tend to have large surface car parks.”
Known for his work in environmentally friendly housing, Dunster says the homes would be quick to build and, if a site later became earmarked for development, could simply be transported to another location. They would also be cheap to run, with solar panels, water recycling systems, and on-site charging points for electric vehicles.
The architect, whose low-carbon BedZED development in Hackbridge, Sutton, was nominated for the Stirling Prize in 2003, would like the council there to be first to adopt the ZEDpod concept. He is also in discussions with councils in Oxford and Bath, where rising prices and rents are also a huge problem for first-time buyers.
“The ZEDpod is a small, low-cost, energy-efficient home particularly intended to provide affordable housing for the rental market and as a starter home for young professionals, singles or couples wishing to get on to the property ladder,” explains Dunster.
The pods would be built in small terraces, with space for shops and communal rooms. Each pod would be super-insulated to prevent both heat loss and noise. “On most car parks the stationary parked vehicles emit much lower levels of air pollution and noise than almost any inner-city road in constant use,” points out Dunster. “It is therefore possible to prove that a higher quality of life will be enjoyed by residents than that experienced by social housing fronting almost any reasonably busy road.”
Dunster must overcome some practical challenges. His units are significantly smaller than the space standards set out by the Mayor and dispensation would have to be agreed before a development could be built.
The pods’ size is dictated by the size of two regular car parking bays, since the support columns for the housing would be installed between bays. Two typical parking bays measure around 242sq ft. “This makes a comfortable micro flat for a young couple that does not feel claustrophobic because there is excellent daylight from large triple-glazed windows,” says Dunster.
To make the most of the space the bedroom would be on a mezzanine floor above the main living room/kitchen and there would also be space for a study area, plus a balcony.
The second challenge is that if councils will not agree to signing over permanent rights to the space above their car parks, the homes would not be mortgageable. They could, however, still be rented out for an estimated £650 to £750 per month.