A unique fusion of heritage architecture and ultramodern modular housing
Royal Arsenal Riverside: Building 11 – The Officers’ House
This pioneering project involves the restoration and extension of the Officers’ House, a Grade II-listed building next to a new Crossrail station – Woolwich – within the Royal Arsenal Riverside site. Such major heritage work has been undertaken in combination with the design and build of a new residential block to the east, which was constructed using offsite volumetric residential units manufactured in Europe.
The client objectives encompassed the full survey and refurbishment of the dilapidated structure before determining how best to interlink it with the standalone modular building. Buro Happold was selected for our expertise in saving historic structures together with offsite volumetric design experience, which had been successfully applied to hotel and housing projects. Additionally, we had provided consultancy support for the residential development directly adjacent to the railway station and so were already familiar with the site.
Assessing the derelict structure in terms of the fabric upgrade needed for low-energy, efficient transformation was the main challenge. Thorough physical inspection proved difficult, as the building was on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register and heavily supported by scaffolding to remain safe. For the new-build portion of the scheme, the goal was to provide high-quality residential space that interfaces smoothly with the regenerated Officers’ House as regards walkways and integrated services.
Our team dynamically modelled the existing building to understand the level of insulation upgrade needed. We also used building information modelling software – in particular Navisworks, a 3D design review package – to analyse the coordination of architecture, structure and building services. This work was done in close collaboration with the client and the volumetric modular team along with the designers and manufacturers of the walkways, which yielded seamless interconnectivity for the residents. These walkways were used as the primary services distribution routes; the project connects to the sitewide low carbon district heating energy supply but also includes state-of-the-art mechanical ventilation with heat recovery for each unit.
Situated so close to the new station at Woolwich – just 4.5 metres away – this is a striking showcase for the client. A rare residential project right beside such a considerable refurbishment is impressive enough; it is also a first in terms of taking this offsite modular approach to high-end property. Apart from the outstanding build quality and aesthetic appeal, this method enables straightforward construction at reduced risk – the 38 fully finished modules were transported from Northern Europe to London in a single day before being assembled by a small team on site. Both the designers and the developer gained knowledge of this manufacturing technique at a volume that could certainly be replicated at medium- and high-density level. The client acknowledged that the complexity of running a major refurbishment project in tandem with a cutting-edge modular build required committed expert assistance from start to finish. That is precisely what Buro Happold provided.
Offsite Awards: Private Housing Project of the Year