Our architects designed modular houses for London courtyards

A prefabricated garden house is being built of laminated wood and its construction does not require a building permit.

Domestic architectural studio Focal which works successfully both in our country and in England, during the last two years has focused its attention on research an alternative solution for classic garden houses. They are a project called ARRIVE whose specificity lies in the fact that there was no end user, ie a client at whose request he would design the facility.

The studies point out that through their five years of work, which was mainly focused on residential projects in England, as well as through close cooperation with contractors during the entire construction process, they recognized the need for better quality extra space which can have various functions, and further logical development of such a project followed.

Idea creation and project development

If we exclude the territory of the city center, the most dominant form of residential settlements throughout London are terraced houses and semi-detached houses. They mostly date from the Victorian and Edwardian periods and are characterized by a homogeneous, densely built front and standardized, very long belonging plots.

It used to be common at the end of the garden to have extra space in mind sheds for storing garden tools or equipment. In order to adapt to the functional and spatial needs of the modern user, these houses have been massively reconstructed from the 80s until today.

As the need for additional storage space always develops over time, and the upgrade of an existing building is limited by regulations, it has been shown that backyard family buildings in England are often they spontaneously transform into an extended living space.

The specificity of the garden house is in the use of laminated wooden modules as the main structural elements.

Due to this development, many companies and manufacturers have recognized the opportunity for placement of typical smaller buildings custom which are not covered by strict standards, and which apply to the main living space.

According to the Focal studio, high standards regarding thermal and acoustic characteristics, and more and more environmental sustainability apply to all living spaces and are regulated by the planning document “The London Plan”. Auxiliary garden facilities with this document are not included except in the limitation of their dimensions.

“The specificity of our garden house is in the use laminated wooden modules as the main constructive elements. Laminated wood as a building material provides high static stability, as well as excellent thermal and acoustic characteristics (which exceed the requirements for living space). Because of its ability to accumulate CO2, wood is also one of the most sustainable building materials, because in this form CO2 remains trapped, unlike the use of this raw material for fuel. Coniferous wood is specific also because of its antibacterial and olfactory characteristics, which contributes to the quality of the air in the space, ”they say from the Focal studio.

The building is made of solid wooden modules made of laminated wood, 34.5 centimeters wide.

The first TIBA facility was built in the London neighborhood of Barnes and was set up in the garden of the house. Due to the conditions of the location, the complete prefabrication of such houses would require somewhat more complex logistics, so the architects decided to field-prefabrikaciju, ie wooden modules that are factory cut to measure and whose transport and installation on the plot is much easier, given the inaccessibility of the location.

The influence of the surrounding architecture and the associated context

As the architects from the studio explained to us, the design of the building is largely conditioned by the regulatory regulations that apply to the so-called ‘outbuilding’ buildings. The regulation allows construction in the yard of the main house, provided that it is an auxiliary building to a certain extent indented from the border with the adjacent plot, as well as yes flat roof cornice does not exceed 250cm. By complying with these regulations, the facility falls into “permited development” and does not require entry into the procedure for obtaining a permit.

In order to introduce the required amount of natural light into the building, they were established openings on the front facade. The main room of the building opens towards the courtyard through a larger sliding window, while the smaller room also has a smaller window, so its interior is a bit more hidden from view.

Base and cross section


The entire building is made of solid wood modules made of laminated wood 34.5 centimeters wide and they make up the construction of the building, and are also the finishing touches to the walls and ceilings in the interior. These wooden modular elements, called HBE (house building element) are manufactured in Germany, and are interconnected through grooves and their longer sides.

It was selected for the facade cladding facade of the Norwegian manufacturer Kebony, which is characterized by a sustainable method of production, quality aging process, high stability, and there is a guarantee of 30 years. This facade is made of soft wood whose characteristics have been changed through an innovative process – furfurilaciju.

In this process, fast-growing soft wood is used (pinus radiata), and through the patented processing process there is a character modification by which this wood gets the characteristics hardwood, making it resistant to external influences. This facade is an alternative to hard and tropical wood, the supply of which is often linked to the deforestation of rainforests and illegal logging.

Challenges in design and construction

The biggest challenge when designing was setting the terms of reference, that is creating an imaginary client and considering potential ways of settling and using the facility, say the architects. The setting of the task itself was preceded by a comprehensive research of the needs of the market, typology and purpose of similar spaces.

The challenge was also program structure setting, and then the plan, which would be specific enough for the future client to be recognized in it, and yet general enough that it can be organized according to the desired function of the user.

“One of the specifics of our business is the cooperation with the client according to whose needs we create space. This kind of project does not exclude that, but it also requires the observation of this object as a product, which means moving out of our established process. This resulted in a setting four scenarios of potential use of space, and then by setting up a plan that is easily adaptable to each of the scenarios. ” – they say from the studio.

The deadline for very controlled construction was only 21 days, and only two masters worked on the construction.

The architects point out that the construction challenges were insignificant, except that the building was built at the time. a complete lockdown in Britain. Bearing in mind that at that time all construction material stores were closed, so every unforeseen step and need for some material or tool was a real small challenge.

However, they also say that fortunately a large part of the construction of the facility was solved off-site because all the modules were factory cut according to their pre-prepared cutting sheets and mounted according to a pre-prepared assembly plan.

Thanks to such an efficient modular system, the deadline for very controlled construction was only 21 days, and only two masters worked on the construction.

Organization and content of the facility

The building contains a hallway, two rooms, a bathroom with a toilet and a back garden. Depending on the purpose of the building, a larger room, which contains a compact kitchen, can be a living room, office space, exercise room or children’s playroom.

A smaller room is also, depending on the purpose of the building, provided for bedroom, studio, sauna or as an additional play area. Regardless of the purpose of the facility, the bathroom remains unchanged and in each of the options, storage space, ie a wardrobe, is also provided.

Natural interior

“We wanted to make the most of the benefits of building in wood, so that’s it laminated wood, which was also used as a building element, left visible in the interior. In addition, the solid wood provided a sense of escape from the urban environment and connection with nature, ”say the architects.

As they wanted to provide a better and healthier living space through these facilities, in addition to the use of wood in the interior and exterior, they decided on a floor covering Marmoleum. It is visually similar to linoleum, and it is characterized by a modern and sustainable way of production. It is made from raw materials: linseed oil, sawdust and recycled coconut shell. It is 100% biodegradable and does not contain plasticizers and mineral oils.

The kitchen and closet are also made of bora. Depending on the usage scenario, the floor covering can still be cork and wooden multi-layer floor.


  • object name: 65 Madrid Road garden house
  • the city: London, UK
  • investor: Gladbrook Developments LTD
  • project authors: Focal design studio
  • area: 30 m2
  • floors: ground floor building
  • photo and video: Polina Filippova, installation: Milan Petković
  • performers: Focal industries

Source: Gradnja by www.gradnja.rs.

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