Modular Steel Framing Case Study – Murray Grove, Hackney

Topics Covered

Project Team

Client: The Peabody Trust
Main Contractor: Kajima UK Engineering
Modular Manufacturers: Yorkon
Architects: Cartwright Pickard Architects
Structural Engineers: Whitby, Bird and Partners
Service Engineers: Engineering Design Partnership
Quantity Surveyor: The MDA Group

Project Overview

The Peabody Trust wanted an image that revealed and reflected the innovation of the modular technology incorporated in this five-storey block of 30 flats, and which minimised disruption on site for this central London project.

One of Britain’s oldest Housing Associations decided to develop its latest venture with a pre-fabricated system. The Peabody Trust was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the results they were getting in their current traditional projects. Construction time-scales were taking 50% longer than forecast and quality was suffering.

Consequently, in an attempt to achieve a fixed-price contract, with faster delivery on site and at a good level of quality, the Trust decided to develop this scheme as a prototype in prefabricated housing using modular or volumetric construction. The accommodation is targeted at young single people, couples and flat sharers, who might prefer low-rental housing for a few years rather than the greater commitment of a mortgage.


Modular prefabrication combines efficiency with style in this seminal project by a progressive architectural practice, Cartwright Pickard Architects. Yorkon use light steel framing for the internal structure, based on its well-tried system used in hotels.

The modules have the same dimensions as those of Yorkon’s standard hotel rooms, and so could be manufactured on the company’s existing production lines. They use light steel framing as their internal structure throughout.

The single-bedroom flats are made up of two 8 m x 3.2 m modules. The two bedroom flats comprise three modules. All bedrooms and living rooms have internal dimensions of 5.15 m x 3 m, enabling living rooms to be used as bedrooms. Internal corridors have been omitted to save space, with access to flats achieved by external balconies facing the street. Each flat also has a private balcony facing a communal garden.

The flats will come to site in two modular units that are fully fitted-out, plumbed and decorated. Furthermore, the roof elements and the circular entrance, lift and stairwell will be delivered as modular elements.

Flats are heated by electric storage heaters. Kitchens and bathrooms have mechanical extract ventilation.

The elevations are clad with a clip-on terracotta rain screen cladding system chosen for both its architectural qualities and its ability to be integrated into a dry construction system. Perforated aluminium screens form a translucent veil in front of the balconies and stair tower.

The cylindrical stair tower, enclosing a glazed lift, is located at the junction between the two wings at the highly visible pivotal corner of the site.

The prefabricated construction is openly expressed in pre-cast concrete balconies, steel-rod cross bracing and clip-on terracotta tile cladding, all of which will be dry assembled on site.

Application benefits:

  1. Fast-track construction period.
  2. High profile image.
  3. Prefabrication of accommodation modules and lift and stair tower.
  4. Architectural design openly expresses the prefabrication of dry construction.
  5. Extension of well-tried modular construction of hotels.

Review and Comment

The Trust will appraise the results over 2 or 3 years to demonstrate whether the modular system meets their requirements and if it is acceptable to their customers. If successful, they will look at large-scale industrialised production.

Source: Corus

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