Croydon development offers ‘shape shifting’ intergenerational housing

The first batch of a new design of family housing that can be expanded or shrunk to meet the occupiers’ needs has been created in Croydon.

The LivinHome concept was developed by Geraghty Taylor Architects (GTA) and the first physical realisation of the approach has been built for developer Guildhouse.

Woodview Mews is a development provides 11 “residential units” or five terraced houses, depending on how they are configured – and this configuration can be altered to meet the changing circumstances of the occupants, according to the designers.

Situated behind a street of large Victorian and Edwardian houses, in Upper Norwood, Croydon, the new design of homes can be configured to provide flats, duplexes, or family homes.

For instance, a young couple buying a Woodview Mews house can let the top two floors as flats and use the rental income to support their mortgage. Later, as their family and income expands the owners can – it is claimed – easily reconfigure the flats to become the upper floors of the family home. When their children move out they can release one or two floors back onto the rental market.

In this way, the designers claim the occupiers are “future-proofing” themselves from rising house prices and providing themselves with an income when they most need it, whether this is to help to repay the mortgage or to supplement their pension.

“Architects have to come up with ideas to tackle the problem of housing ever growing populations. I have been working and campaigning on this subject for over twenty years and the completion of our first LivinHome is a major milestone. I challenge the industry to sit up and take notice,” said Brendan Geraghty, of GTA.

Each unit provides spacious open plan sitting room with a kitchen and dining room, or when laid out as a flat, the dining room can become a bedroom. Each house has a vaulted internal roof on the third floor.

The LivinHome concept’s flexibility is based on a number of key elements:

Open floor plates on every floor. GTA borrowed this approach from their work in the office sector where floor plates are column free and can be reconfigured for the needs of different tenants. The houses have no internal supporting walls. Each three-storey terraced house is an independent structure with four supporting external walls
The staircase is built across the front of the house providing independent access to all three floors or the stairs can be fully reabsorbed into the family house format
The services column is stacked vertically as in offices, so that rooms can easily become kitchens or bathrooms
All units have access to outdoor space with balconies at the back and front of the two upper floors, and a small garden for the ground floor. The balconies can be enclosed to increase the internal space
A repeatable plan with a common chassis
Full access for the disabled or elderly, and with room to fit a lift
According to GTA, this “transitional housing model” provides “intergenerational” living with a choice of using the space for living together, as separate flats for each generation, as part flat part family home or even creating a home office or carer suite in one of the flats. And the home can be passed to future generations as ultimately a grown up child can turn the building back into their family home as their own family expands.

Dickon Robinson, chair of RIBA’s Building Futures said: “Life cycle homes like these will help reduce the spiral of unaffordability because owners are spared the ever-growing costs involved in moving to a larger property. We are seeing a clear trend of people moving less often because of relentlessly rising cost per sq. ft. and stamp duty, and investing in their existing home instead.”

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