DACLT Goes to London

Director’s of the DACLT were invited by the Architects ReedWatts to visit the ‘Pocket Living’ flats in Sail Street, London. This was an opportunity for the Directors to get a feel for the type of accommodation that it would be possible to provide in Dorchester.

Andy wrote about the visit and provides a description of the flats along with some important questions that the Board must now consider!

DACLT Visit to “Pocket Flats” in Sail Street, Waterloo

We visited the development at 8 Sail Street SE1, where there are 30 new one-bedroom flats over five floors, with lift and small roof garden. Each deck has a small communal cycle store area. Letter boxes are at ground floor level inside the main front door.

The ground floor at street level is also used for flats with doors direct to the pavement though set back from it by about a metre or so with occasional vertical posts to delineate the edge of the development.

The flats are all similar and 38 m2 in size.

The front door is off a common walkway which runs along the west side of the building. This provides partial screening from the road and railway. The walkway is only accessed through two secure doors with key fobs. The communal areas are cleaned and maintained by the management company ~ presumably at some charge to the residents.

The Flat

Inside, the flat all is painted white, ceilings are high and doors are large – wheel chair accessible?

Each flat has three windows – one small in the kitchen at high level onto the walkway, (presumably for ventilation), one large multiple-way opening window in the bedroom and one very large window with Juliet balcony in the east-facing living area. There is a good deal of light.

The bedroom is comfortably big enough for a double bed and a small amount of furniture. The three photos start with looking back towards the front door – the bathroom is effectively behind the hanging space and living area to the right.  The other pictures show the bed, desk and window.

Living Area

The kitchen/diner has a small but functional kitchen area – see picture. On the left in the picture is the sink unit with a large stainless steel sink with drainer and a small amount of worktop. Cupboards underneath with some storage. Behind the sink in this photo is the riser duct containing all the services up, and down.

The gas boiler and washing machine services are in the hall cupboard behind the back of the sink.

Opposite the sink unit is a worktop with electric hob and oven under with some relatively large wall cupboards above. Decent cupboards below with space for integrated fridge. A fridge-freezer would have to go where Adrian is sitting at the table. I did not check for task lighting under the wall cupboards.

There is not a lot of worktop for cooking purposes nor for draining and stacking before putting away. However, the table between the kitchen and living area could double up for this purpose.

You can get four adults into the living area without too much effort. Note also the height of the ceiling and main window.

Apparently, the extra height gives an impression of extra space, and the flat certainly did not feel cramped albeit it was a show flat with very little of the usual clutter associated with normal life.

Bathroom

Unfortunately, there was no electricity when we visited the flat so shots of the bathroom were limited as no window either. However, the photo on the left shows the wall-mounted WC and the sink unit. The shower unit was simply half enclosed by a glass screen as discernible on the plan. The floor was a non-slip vinyl material, though why so dark? As bathrooms go, this was plenty large enough and possibly could take a wheelchair?

Heating

The developer talks of underfloor heating, but there was no sign of this in this flat. There was a physically large (combi) Vaillent boiler on the wall in the hall cupboard allowing it to vent out to the open outside corridor. The boiler provides water for the shower, bathroom basin and kitchen sink. It also heats two radiators however, considerable heating power is needed for the shower and hence presumably giving rise to its size.

The windows were not triple glazed as far as we could see but otherwise the flats would be very well insulated. Sound insulation was also good – very little was heard of the passing trains just a few metres away.

Construction

The flats are of modular construction and were basically built as front-to-back halves in a factory in Bedford and then shipped in very nearly finished. The walkways, staircases and lift shafts are built on afterwards. This process is, apparently, slightly more expensive than conventional building, but time on site is roughly halved and the amount of equipment, disruption and wastage is reduced enormously.

There is a rather good video of the process at https://vimeo.com/177203603?from=outro-local . Bear in mind this is a sales video as much as anything else.

Price

Pricing for these flats around London seems to vary from about £170k (Southall) to >£300k (Camden) presumably depending upon location and transport. The Sail St flats are apparently listed as £267,000. All at 80% of the market and aimed at first time buyers, or people who own no other property, with individual salaries <£90k.

Some concern has been expressed in various blogs that purchasers may find them difficult to sell on at these prices. However, they do not seem to have been around long enough for there to be any concrete evidence either way yet.

For DACLT there appear to be a number of issues that come to mind …

  1. Are these large enough for our purpose? For those visiting the unanimous answer was yes.
  2. Inside ceiling height vs number of floors. Can we get four floors to provide us with 25+ flats given that our purpose is to provide as much affordable housing for those who cannot get on the ladder otherwise?
  3. Can we be sure that the construction cost and final sale price will hold up over time – some concerns that the new-build premium in London might make resale difficult.
  4. Heating and insulation: how do we balance initial cost against running cost?
  5. Can we go for electric only and thus save money and what would the saving be?
  6. The flats we saw had no parking facility. Are we happy to follow that line?
  7. The flats we saw provided no white goods – they relied totally on residents bringing in their own. Extra cost = extra mortgage.
  8. Reed Watts’s design has double aspect for most flats which offers even more light and ventilation.
  9. These were flat roofed blocks. Pitch roofs may fit our locality better, and provide good PV south-facing aspects, but reduce the usable height of the blocks and hence the number of flats we can build.
  10. Sound insulation and services. The Sail St flats were “handed” such that bathrooms were next to bathrooms and kitchen/diners next to kitchen diners. This does reduce annoying noise however, ther are some worries about the risers having experienced water noise in flats before.

Dr Andy Stillman Feb 2018

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