UK: The Chapman Taylor Prototype Housing project

With housing at the forefront of the UK political agenda, and the pressure of tackling how to build an extra 50,000 homes a year in London alone, Chapman Taylor has devised a new housing model, Umbrellahaus, as one answer to help solve the UK housing problem. (This article was written in 2015).

Our proposal, Umbrellahaus, is a sustainable, affordable, offsite housing model that can be constructed at scale and speed to provide much needed housing for communities within our towns and cities.

This method of delivery produces high quality, lightweight construction responsive to its context, which can be seamlessly integrated into the existing city fabric.

Everyone needs a home

Aimed at those who face little prospect of acquiring a home, Umbrellahaus proposes a new funding and delivery model which unlocks the Government’s land assets; encourages institutional investment; streamlines the planning system; encourages more players in the construction market and economically benefits the whole community.

In order for the Umbrellahaus model to work, we need to see the government deliver on their proposal to streamline the planning system and ensure that suitable land held by the public sector is released to enable development to proceed.

Design and Product

Umbrellahaus housing modules range from one-bed to three-bed family units, and provide a choice of homes to reflect people's ability to pay and the different stages in their lives. All unit sizes generally follow the London Plan space standards that can be reduced in size where appropriate to match market demands. With Umbrellahaus, it is possible to upgrade to a one-bed from a micro-apartment, or downsize to a one-bed from a three-bed when circumstances change, without leaving the community.

The modules are designed to be thermally efficient, maximise daylight, minimise maintenance costs and encourage recycling.

Umbrellahaus modules will have LABC-type approval to fast-track through building regulation approval procedures and be backed by the Building Offsite Property assurance scheme.

Modules are scaled for easy transport to site, with offsite construction providing factory conditions which encourage clean, energy-efficient and accurate assembly.

This method of delivery produces high-quality, lightweight, versatile construction, which can be seamlessly integrated into the existing city fabric.

Site sustainability

Scheme designs will be site- and context-specific. Umbrellahaus is extremely flexible, and can be expressed externally in a range of idioms. The cladding treatment will relate to the surrounding context, whether this requires a contemporary or a conservative response to the scale and rhythm of the existing buildings.

Gyms, resident's lounges, micro-cinemas and launderettes will be included among other facilities to encourage community cohesion. The public realm will be enhanced through private amenity courtyards, recessed balconies and gardens and terraces to create the perfect living environment for today's Umbrellahaus residents.

"We anticipate that the Umbrellahaus model will become one of the leading offsite solutions to the housing crisis."

Land and Planning

Currently, central government owns more than 16,000,000 m² of property and land across the UK, and much of this land is underdeveloped.

The risks of uncertainty and delay in the planning process is problematic for all developers. In order to provide a greater assurance that plans will be approved, a collaborative approach will be taken by the Chapman Taylor design team, working with local authorities and communities to develop a design code for the Umbrellahaus. Massing, density, layout, appearance and materials will be established at the earliest stages of the process, along with critical planning conditions. Details would be approved by condition or submission of reserved matters.

An independent design review panel will be engaged on large or complex sites.

Construction and Procurement

The Umbrellahaus model will not displace existing development activity, but will assist with helping to meet the shortfall across the UK in the next 20 years.

The private house-building industry currently accounts for 79% of all homes built. In the past, there has been too much reliance on the volume builders to solve the shortage even though some say their model limits their ability to supply. Currently we are building around 120,000 homes a year, with the government and other independent housing experts advising that we need to be building at a rate of 240,000 homes per year for the next ten years simply to meet demand.


Umbrellahaus provides a constructive solution to those disillusioned about ever having a home to call their own.

Chapman Taylor is currently collaborating with other consultants to develop the structure system, the façade design and the environmental attributes for the protoype.

We anticipate that the Umbrellahaus model will become one of the leading offsite solutions to the housing crisis.

About the Author

Michael Swiszczowski (BA(Hons), MArch, ADPPA, ARB, RIBA)

Director, UK

Michael joined Chapman Taylor in 2016 to strengthen the practice’s residential expertise. He joined the UK Board in 2022 and continues to take an active role in developing the practice’s residential and hospitality sectors across the UK business.

He has experience working on award-winning residential projects, with a particular focus on Build-to-Rent, student accommodation, hotels, serviced apartments and modular construction.

Michael is a regular speaker at residential and property conferences where he articulates Chapman Taylor’s design approach and skill sets. He is also a RIBA-elected member of the Regional Council for RIBA North West.

Areas of expertise:

Residential / Build-to-Rent / Student Accommodation / Hotels

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