Architect's prefab solution for HK

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 April, 2009, 12:00am

A British architect believes he may have developed a lower-cost housing solution for Hong Kong.

Tony Kettle, group director of British-based RMJM Architects, has designed a prefabricated housing unit that he claims is not only relatively cheap and quick to build but also inexpensive to run.

Mr Kettle has created MiLoft, a modular home built from steel and timber that can have one, two, three or four bedrooms. A one-bedroom unit costs about GBP55,000 (HK$635,200) to build.

Needing only shallow foundations, a MiLoft block takes five months to build, twice as fast as conventional housing, and can be built to a maximum of 18 storeys.

'It is all about minimum cost, minimum assembly time and minimum energy use,' he said. 'This is about quality as well. It is about creating the type of environment that you would like to live in.'

A conventionally built, six-storey apartment building in Britain or Hong Kong costs between GBP1,000 and GBP1,100 per square metre to build, according to Mr Kettle. That compares with a cost of GBP900 to GBP1,000 per square metre for a MiLoft building because of the savings in construction time and standardisation of components.

Units would be manufactured so that walls, doors and windows can be made sufficiently tight-fitting to give high levels of insulation, according to Mr Kettle.

This would mean lower running costs than other Hong Kong flats, because they needed fewer air-conditioners and dehumidifiers running in summer.

An energy-saving mechanical ventilation heat recovery system will be used, the first time this had been done for flats. Invented by Max Fordham Consulting Engineers, the technology reuses hot or cold air to regulate temperature.

'This is a new concept as it combines high-quality space with low energy, highly insulated apartments with high levels of airtightness and unitised construction at an affordable price,' he said.

Fully glazed on one side, natural daylight can flood through the contemporary-looking apartments, helping to reduce lighting costs.

RMJM launched MiLoft at the MIPM property industry conference in Cannes, France last month. European politicians, developers and housing executives are taking an interest in it. Although the concept has not been marketed in Asia yet, early interest has been encouraging.

'Last week, I saw a Chinese bank and they seemed to really like it,' Mr Kettle said. 'Their eyes lit up.'


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