University of Brighton Alumni Association

Homes for Christmas designed by graduates

Two University of Brighton graduates have designed the UK’s largest temporary accommodation development – providing emergency accommodation for up to 288 people before Christmas.

John Smith and Roman Schneker both studied architectural technology and now run Cityzen, the Sustainable Architecture & Engineering practice in Portslade.

They designed the development reusing shipping containers, for Sussex based developers QED. The 60-apartments delivered in Acton, West London, for Ealing Council include 32 with two bedrooms, 20 with one bedroom and also eight studio homes. Each has its own kitchenette, shower room, and front door. There will also be a management office and laundry unit.

The apartments are based around Cityzen’s modular design of one, two and three adjoining units. Cityzen produced 315 drawings and each container build was tracked from the design process, through to the factory construction and to delivery on site. Cityzen designed not only the apartments but the building services in the apartments, and utilities to site.

John said: “It was a tough challenge, given just 10 months from first concept sketch to tenants moving in, and we’re proud to have played a part in helping Ealing Council provide homes before Christmas for people who would otherwise be in B&Bs or moved to another borough.”

John started out as a building services engineer but was continually being asked to look at the fabric and design of building to improve the performance. He saw that energy and sustainability were coming to the fore in the building industry so in 2003 he moved to Brighton to train at the University. Roman studied the same course at the School of Environment and Technology as he wanted to engage with the science of architecture and how buildings are built.

John said: “Both of us found the course helped with our career progression, and since graduating we have both become Chartered Members of the Institute of Architectural Technologists.”

John started Cityzen in 2010 and it became a limited company in 2017. John and Cityzen have mentored six placement students from the University of Brighton. Roman was one of these students and he later joined Cityzen as a Senior Architectural Technologist. For the past year he has been leading technical design on the firm’s modular and housing projects.

John has been working on container designs since 2005, being the subject of his dissertation. Cityzen have been assisting QED developing container design solutions since 2012. John said: “Working with QED has enabled us to see the opportunities and challenges that reusing shipping containers bring.”

The Acton development has a seven-year site uselifespan. After that time the units will be dismantled and taken to another site.

John said: “The team therefore has had to think not only how to build it quickly, exceeding building regulations, but how will it will then be dismantled and reused.

Roman said: “The project has been satisfying both professionally and personally. We’ve addressed various shipping container and site technical challenges. And when you see residents visit their new home, with their own front door providing them with the security and stability that most of us are lucky enough to take for granted, it’s an incredible motivator for the whole team.”

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Nic Ashton • December 20, 2017

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