Finalists announced for low-cost housing competition

The final entrants for John Prescott's 'Design for Manufacture' competition have been announced this week.

Thirty-three entrants, a mixture of consortia, partnerships and individual companies form the UK and overseas, have been invited to submit firm proposals in the second stage of the competition to design and construct high quality homes for £60,000.

Over 50 expressions of interest were submitted in the first stage, involving more than 100 companies and 10 sites have been chosen to be used for the eventual winners.

"My Design for Manufacture competition is challenging house builders to think creatively and innovatively in order to provide homes that are well designed and affordable at the same time. At a time when construction costs are rising and we need to build more for our money, I want to help more people get on to the housing ladder while still driving up standards in design, construction methods and creating truly sustainable communities."

However, the competition has been criticised for being unfair to smaller companies and only aiming at the well established, large scale developers.

Geoff Barham Director of JTD Timber Frames Ltd was originally in a consortium with Rok Build Ltd, and architect Richard Pane. However, JTD, being a small company have had to pull out due to the excessive paperwork and short lead times available.

Mr Barham told edie news that there was a mountain of paperwork involved, including a 50 page document to read at the start of the process, with several reports of up to two to three thousand words at a time to be written with less than a month to complete it all.

"If you're a small company like us you have to concentrate on the bread and butter contracts we already have. We can't afford the time to spend on this. If we'd had two months, then we could have done it."

Mr Barham said that his company's designs and constructions exceeded the standards required for the competition, and were as sustainable as any on the market.

"But, we simply don't have the manpower to focus exclusively on this. This has been designed for big developers and builders, like Wimpy and Barratt, who are already building developments and can afford to put a member of staff on this full time. It won't do anything for the smaller designers and builders who could contribute."

Rok Build and Richard Pane architect are still entering the competition. A spokesperson for Rok Build told edie news that they felt they were in a good position with the competition as they had experience of meeting the requirements in a previous project.

Working with South Somerset Homes and a team from Advantage South West, Rok have built two houses that meet the criteria of the competition in Barton St David, near Somerton in Somerset.

The company believe that this head start will see them through to the next stage of the competition comfortably.

By David Hopkins



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