Our latest product - a 14 apartment MyPlace scheme - can cost around £1.65m to complete. We want you to design one for 50% of the cost...

That was our brief for 160 students at Birmingham City University.

Now embarking on a three month project these students, who are studying a range of disciplines within the field of construction, will be tasked with selecting a suitable plot, remedying any land issues (such as drainage) and designing a scheme that challenges our current construction method. 

During the opening keynote, Alex and I took the opportunity to reinforce a few important elements of their designs:

  • Affordability - the customers currently living in MyPlace apartments may be wholly supported by benefits payments and as such there is a definite ceiling level to the rents we can or should charge.
  • Quality - difficult, we know, but a 50% reduction in cost can't equate to a 50% poorer build. Not only are we responsible for repairs across the whole product life-cycle, but responsible for ensuring the apartments are safe, warm and comfortable for our customers. 
  • Challenge Tradition - investigate alternative or emergent construction methods to achieve your efficiency. Does anything rival the brick and block construction endemic in the sector? 
  • Diversity - We will always have a commitment providing housing for those who need it, however if the government pegged any further caps to benefits and living allowance the current build may not be suitable anymore. By building better, we're hoping to avoid this, but designs should consider who else (which markets) might the product also be suitable for with either no or minor adaptations.  
Alex talking about Independent Living, a key selling point for existing MyPlace apartments. 

Alex talking about Independent Living, a key selling point for existing MyPlace apartments. 

We get that it's a stretch target... and the reality is that the brief is pretty fluid - every part of it able to be flexed to each groups interpretation. It's these changes to brief, these alterations, are what we're actually most interested in - and the justifications for doing so.  In some sense, there are no right, wrong or desirable answers, so long as the logic is explained. 

The next major milestone is a visit to Millward Place scheduled for the end of February - look out for another major update then! 

@ThomasHartland

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