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YO! Home’s Simon Woodroffe talks to Urban Splash

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

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I’m Lee,  site manager at Irwell Riverside, blogging about our latest staff meeting at Urban Splash.

Urban Splash is a very open and inclusive company; one of the best things we do is run this programme of staff meetings where my colleagues and I hear all about the business and our forthcoming developments.

The most recent meeting was hosted at Stubbs Mill in Manchester. Our brilliant guest speaker was eminent entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe who’s bringing his YO! innovation brand to Manchester in the form of 24 YO! Home apartments at New Islington.

As well as telling us all about YO! Homes, Simon delivered a broader honest and captivating presentation. Like Urban Splash he promotes a personal approach to business; he made me laugh when he said he had been in meetings where he had forgotten what the meeting was about because he was more interested in getting to know the person before the business at hand – so he just kept changing the topic away from business.

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In my day job at Irwell Riverside, I help turn the concept of hoUSe into a physical reality - giving customer the perfect place to live and call home - so I took a lot of the presentation on board. It was inspirational and a great story!

If you want to see similar presentations and business advice from Simon you can find them here.

Filed under: New Islington, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

hoUSe gets Wired…

June 27th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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Great to read tech bible Wired’s view on hoUSe. Wired’s known for its dedication to reporting new trends and we’re thrilled our modular family housing is one of them!

Read more in this month’s edition or find out about the new hoUSes we’re selling at Irwell Riverside near Manchester here.

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

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We are very excited that the massive CIH Housing Conference is coming to Manchester and I am pleased to be speaking at the conference too!

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To coincide with it on 30th June, we’re inviting CIH delegates to take a trip to nearby New Islington to come and see our modular hoUSe development; we’re labelling it as ‘Open hoUSe’. It will give delegates the chance to come and see the concept up close; touching and feeling the show hoUSe and seeing the wider regeneration around New Islington.

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We’re offering a shuttle bus to New Islington on the hour every hour from Manchester Central; so either just turn up or email Chris Monkman for an appointment. Or, if you’d like to meet for a coffee at any point during the conference, please email Cathy Cunny who looks after my diary.

Our 2-minute film with George Clarke explaining the concept should whet your appetites until then and you can read more details about the concept here.

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

Read about our ‘pioneering housing concept’

May 30th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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It’s been great reading about hoUSe in the national press recently. Our modular, family housing concept was covered in depth by The Telegraph and The Sunday Times recently, with the former calling it ‘a pioneering housing concept’.

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Meanwhile, the Sunday Times, who referred to Urban Splash as ‘the developer that rescued decaying mills and warehouses’, visited the first hoUSe site in New Islington, interviewing a purchaser and concluding that hoUSe aims to  ‘turn buyers from passive consumers into architects of their own dream homes.’

Read the full Sunday Times article below…

Bespoke new builds on a budget

Urban Splash is the developer that rescued decaying mills and warehouses, pioneered “loft living” in Britain and transformed industrial wastelands into inner-city property hotspots. Now the Manchester-based firm has a revolutionary plan for the traditional family home — reinventing the Victorian terrace, building it in a factory and allowing buyers to play an active role in the design process.

Described as “the Grand Designs experience on a budget”, Urban Splash’s latest venture — “hoUSe” — aims to turn buyers from passive consumers into the architects of their own dream homes. Whereas owners of period terraces tend to move in and start knocking down walls to suit their needs, hoUSe will allow buyers to configure their home around their lifestyle while it’s still on the drawing board.

Each one will be built and assembled in a factory near Nottingham by SIG Building Systems, 
a company that specialises in timber panel construction, then assembled on site. The whole process takes about four months — compared to six for conventional bricks and mortar.

“Loads of things we buy now are bespoke — everything from cars to trainers,” says Jonathan Falkingham, co-founder and creative director of Urban Splash. “I compare hoUSe with buying a BMW. You specify what you want, then, a couple of months later, it comes off the production line.”

HoUSe buyers can opt for two or three storeys, and can choose to have a garden home (with the living spaces on the ground floor) or a loft (with a living space on the top floor, under an exposed pitched roof). They can decide to go fully open-plan or have more traditional segregated rooms, including up to five bedrooms.

There are various configurations of kitchens, bathrooms, storage, floor coverings and furnishings. And, because the walls are made from wooden panels (covered in a range of protective materials, including magnesia board, sealant and insulation), and those dividing rooms are not supporting walls, owners can easily add rooms as their family expands, or remove them when their offspring move out. In collaboration with architects at Shedkm, Urban Splash has taken pains to keep ceilings lofty and windows large, with pop-out windows — a modern, square version of a bay — on the top floor. The company also offers 1,000 sq ft of living space (or 1,500 sq ft for a three-storey home), compared with the typical 800 sq ft for new-builds.

“We think builders are way behind the curve, because nothing has really changed for 50 years,” Falkingham says. The architect founded Urban Splash with Tom Bloxham, an entrepreneur, in 1993, winning a string of Riba awards before almost going out of business when the housing market collapsed in 2008.

“The recession gave us pause for reflection,” he says. “What we saw was that if you’ve got a lot of money and you want a lovely house, you haven’t got a problem. It’s at the other end of the market where there isn’t much choice. There’s no flexibility, poor specification and a fixation on rooms, not space.”

Prices, inevitably, will depend on location, but the first hoUSe scheme is being built in New Islington, an area just north of Manchester’s city centre that has seen intense regeneration in the past decade. Prices start at £200,000 for a two-storey home, including a garden and parking, and about £300,000 for a three-storey house. So far, 14 of the latter have been completed — and all 43 properties in the development have been sold.

Planning permission has just been granted for a further 34 units at Smith’s Dock, in North Shields, on Tyneside, as well as 72 homes at Irwell Riverside, in Salford. Prices for those developments will be released later this year.

Andy Smith, 29, is just the sort of savvy buyer Urban Splash had in mind when it began working on hoUSe. The fresh-faced entrepreneur moved into his property in New Islington at the beginning of the year and has been busy adapting it to his needs, adding an ensuite wet room alongside his bedroom/office on the third storey.

“I like the size and the fact that you can do what you want with it,” says Smith, founder of From the Fields, the events company behind music festivals such as Kendal Calling and Forgotten Fields. “I looked at older properties, but I couldn’t find anything in my budget — or, if I did, there was a problem with subsidence or something. And there wasn’t the space.”

Smith agrees that there is a gap in the market for people like him, who would like their own home, but aren’t ready to sacrifice their lively urban lifestyle for a conventional suburban new-build. With the assistance of the government’s Help to Buy scheme for first-time purchasers, he could afford the £305,000 asking price. He even had the odd experience of watching his hoUSe being delivered.

“It was amazing,” he recalls. “I happened to be walking past, and I saw the bottom storey being put in position. I popped to a coffee shop, then, on the way back, the whole thing was there.”

It’s tempting to make disparaging comparisons with Ikea flatpacks, but Urban Splash insists that this is to misunderstand the process. “People already make houses like this, but on site,” Falkingham says. “We’re not doing anything radical in that sense — it’s established technology. We’re just building it in a factory. And the production standards are much, much higher than on a site.”

Rather than the Swedish purveyor of flatpack furniture, Urban Splash prefers comparisons with Vitra, a Swiss firm that manufactures works by many internationally renowned furniture designers. It’s all part of a long-term vision to become “a sort of designer brand of housebuilding”. For its next “product”, called Mansion House, the company plans to take the Georgian terrace and adapt it for modern living.

“We started out with this really simple proposition — to make well-designed, affordable housing,” Falkingham says. “I don’t think we’re trying to upset the apple cart. We just want to offer something different, because we think there is a demand for it.”

Filed under: Manchester, New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

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On 7th May we’ll be launching new homes for sale at Irwell Riverside and we’ll be launching a new show hoUSe for customers at nearby New Islington on the same day too.

First up for sale at Irwell Riverside are our hoUSes - each of which come with parking and gardens - with prices from £250,000 for a 1,000 sq ft home. They’ll soon be followed by apartments, with a total of 171 homes created by Urban Splash on the waterfront site by 2017.

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Although Irwell Riverside officially sits in Salford, hoUSes here are less than half a mile away from Harvey Nics and other key areas of Manchester City Centre.

We’ve focused on bringing hoUSe to sites like Irwell Riverside, as city centre housing is an important issue for us. hoUSe gives families a spacious, urban living option, and giving customers who simply want more space, something other than a typical apartment.

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We’ve already sold out at New Islington - another city centre fringe site to the North East of Manchester - so the appeal’s been appreciated so far.

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If you want to find out more, or come and see what hoUSe looks like by visiting our new New Islington show hoUSe which is located at 2 Keepers Quay, Manchester, M4 6JL (click here for a map), then register now or drop us a line.

Filed under: New Islington, Urban Splash No comments

Launching hoUSe

April 14th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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It’s been great to see hoUSe getting so much coverage recently.

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Lots of journalists, from around the country have been writing about the concept; Wallpaper* for example  noted the hoUSes are “no diminutive Victorian pastiche…”.

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Meanwhile, fellow design and architecture critics Dezeen who called the scheme “a pioneering housing project”.

The press in Manchester meanwhile - home to the first hoUSes at New Islington - were equally as complementary; About MCR noting the: “innovative design template” and I Love MCR suggesting they are for “house-proud, design-conscious people“.  The Sunday Times also included New Islington and hoUSe one of the 20 ‘hippest places to live‘ in the UK!

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Read all of the hoUSe press coverage here and register your interest for more houses that we’re bringing to New Islington, Irwell Riverside in Salford and Smith’s Dock in North Shields soon…

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

hoUSe: according to the Housing Minister

January 21st, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I read with great interest a recent interview that the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, gave to Construction Manager magazine, in which he referred to hoUSe as an example of good custom build housing.

His comments come following a site visit with me and the HCA last summer; a wonderful opportunity to show him how we’re helping solve the housing crisis.

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Read his full comments here or the excerpt below.

Lewis was also enthusiastic about the wider adoption of custom build, where buyers have the latitude to determine the look and layout of new homes. He  referred to a July visit to developer Urban Splash’s “House” project in New Islington, where customers can select the size and distribution of space thanks to the modular construction methods used.

“What really struck me at Urban Splash, was the speed of delivery, but also the customisation. The only thing that’s fixed is the outer walls; internally you can lay it out how you want. It’s about speed and therefore choice for the customer.”

Filed under: New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

Building houses people can ‘have a future in’

January 11th, 2016 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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I listened with great interest over the weekend to the Prime Minister’s plans to release a £140m funding package which will help community groups, councils, housing associations and developers turn around some of the country’s worst council estates.

It’s a welcome initiative and something I’m fully in support of however the Government needs to ensure that each geographical area - even each former council estate - is looked at carefully and that the right solution is created for each.

It’s something we’ve done a lot of in the last 20 years, and you come to realise what’s appropriate and what will work. We’ve been working for example at New Islington in Manchester for more than a decade; it used to be known as the Cardroom Estate and was a notoriously deprived area of the city. Demolition of the existing homes was definitely the best way forward as it paved the way for us, Manchester City Council and other developers to create a new masterplan and ultimately contemporarily appropriate housing solutions as well as workspaces, a health centre, a park, a marina and a school.

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In the case of buildings like Park Hill in Sheffield - we had a contrasting view. Back in the sixties, the vast building of 1000 flats housed hundreds of families and was regarded as an urban utopia. There was no doubt in our mind that retention and restoration was definitely the best way forward and we’ve already converted almost 300 homes there for modern buyers and tenants. We did the same at 3Towers on the outskirts of Manchester - the three buildings there were retrievable and hundreds of people live there.

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This programme is a good start but there’s still much more that needs to be done if we’re to make full viable and sustainable use of the country’s most rundown housing blocks - £140m will not go very far between 100 estates!

Filed under: 3 Towers, Affordable homes, Manchester, New Islington, Park Hill, Sheffield, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash No comments

Getting the Government’s feedback on hoUse

June 26th, 2015 [ No comments ] [ Add comment ]
by Tom Bloxham MBE

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It was great yesterday to welcome the Minister of State for Housing and Planning Brandon Lewis to New Islington – to see our new modular hoUSe (you can watch the film about hoUSe here).

I enjoyed showing him around the scheme and hearing his comments on how our work sits within the Government’s vision for housing. See what he had to say below. And in the meantime, if you want to come and see our hoUSe you can register your interest here.

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Brandon Lewis MP on hoUSe: “Manchester has a rich history of innovation, so it’s great to be here and see that spirit is alive and well with Urban Splash’s new modular housing concept. This Government has got Britain building, encouraging a new generation of house builders to pursue their ideas and come up with new and exciting ways to build homes.

“Urban Splash is a prime example of that and I want to see other new entrants follow their lead and break into the market. That way we can ensure a thriving industry that delivers the high-quality homes that hard-working people rightly deserve.”

The Minister ‘s visit was led by Urban Splash Chairman Tom Bloxham MBE, who said: “hoUSe will bring a new ideology and way of thinking to the UK residential market and I am delighted that we have already sold 75% of the available homes even before we have officially launched. Providing affordability and good design is our main objective and I look forward to welcoming more people to this site – and other planned hoUSe sites – in the coming months.”

Filed under: Manchester, New Islington, Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash, hoUSe No comments

Site update at Stubbs

Thursday, May 28th, 2015
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I’m spending a lot of my time on site at Stubbs Mill in Manchester and it’s a really exciting place to be.

The majority of the demolition works are now complete and we’ve removed the dilapidated ground floor slab - the replacement for which we’ll be installing in the coming weeks.

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One of the biggest jobs we’ve undertaken this week is creating a series openings at ground floor level. These will become vast doors which the eventual tenants can open up to create a multi-purpose indoor/outdoor office space.

Watch this space for details of the next construction update; we’ll next be turning our attentions to the drainage works and service trenches.

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Filed under: New Islington, Urban Splash No comments
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