Fab House, TDO Architecture

Project details
Architect: TDO Architecture
Contractor: SIG & USC (Urban Splash Construction)
Town: North Shields

Fab House is a new modular constructed house typology designed by TDO Architecture, working in collaboration with television personality, George Clarke for joint venture developers Places for People and Urban Splash.

Image Credits: © Peter Cook

In North Tyneside, a terrace of ten houses has been built on The Plateau of Smith’s Dock in North Shields, the former site of a shipyard which has lain dormant for the past 30 years. The terrace sits in a master plan alongside a crescent of 24 townhouses and an 80-unit apartment complex, the Smokehouses, designed by SimpsonHaugh, which is still under construction. 

In an age of increasing automation, modular fabrication could revolutionise productivity in this sector. With modules prepared in an off-site facility, site risks, and scheduling concerns are minimised, resulting in a cost effective and waste efficient process which in contrast to traditional construction practices, ensures a more consistent quality. 

TDO has applied smart design strategies to finesse the detailing to create a house typology which is low cost and material efficient, but still visually attractive. Working in close collaboration with the off-site contractor SIG from the outset, TDO looked for ‘free detail’ to expose, to bring character and quality to the interiors. For example, the timber ceiling joists in the modular cassettes of the floor plates have been exposed, a strategy which increases floor-to-ceiling heights to 2.88 metres, whilst ensuring material continuity with the birch-faced plywood staircase, which is treated as a sculptural object inserted into the open-plan reception space. The birch ply stairwell is top-lit by a skylight, which, combined with floor-to-ceiling windows in the reception space and master bedroom, floods the interiors with natural light.   

TDO also identified opportunities to make efficiencies in the fabrication process, for example by deploying central alignments in the cladding system so that the contractor did not have to align four corners, only two. The tolerances are increased and the final appearance much better controlled. The centre alignment of the cladding extends to the windows and doors, setting the overall rhythm of the building and establishing a structured composition in the terrace.

Services are concealed behind the cladding, which can be connected externally on arrival direct from the factory floor. This gives a sense of weight and permanence to the façade not commonly associated with modular builds. This is emphasised with the specification of dark grey Equitone board, offset by the Corten steel shroud around the porch which creates shelter from the elements whilst referencing the site’s industrial heritage. 
We are delighted to have contributed to this pioneering project. Fab House is the culmination of a rewarding design collaboration with George Clarke and extensive R&D with SIG Off-site. Modular construction has a vital role to play in reaching housebuilding targets, and as a young practice we’re excited to be part of this.”  said Tom Lewith, director, TDO Architecture.

For a video tour of a Fab House, please click here.