Fab House

TDO Architecture in collaboration with George Clarke, North Shields, 2018


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Houses are faced in a grey Equitone cladding 

Peter Cook     Download Original

  • Houses are faced in a grey Equitone cladding    
  • The units are arranged in three curved terraces of eight houses each    
  • Urban Splash aims to shift public perception away from lingering pejorative associations with post-war prefabs    
  • Protruding Cor-ten cowls to the front door and kitchen window reveals    
  • The layout is predominantly open-plan downstairs    
  • View to the bedroom    
  • A noticeable feature is the birch plywood stair    
  • The stair material gives a tactile, warm feel to interiors    
  • The stairs, with a skylight above, lead the eye up, animate the centre of the house and allow light to drop down into its depth    
  • Site plan    
  • Typical floor plans    
  • Ground floor and first floor plans    
  • Sections AA and BB    
  • Front and rear elevations    
  • Prefabrication detail 1    
  • Prefabrication detail 2    
  • Prefabrication detail 3    
  • Front elevation detail section    

The latest model of factory-built home for developer Urban Splash has a clean, contemporary look.

The starting point of the design was working on general principles of simple forms and exposed materials. Ten two-storey houses, faced in a grey Equitone cladding, play to an unashamedly Modernist aesthetic. While the choice of Equitone as cladding was not a given for the Fab House, it’s one of several key design choices that, having been tested successfully on the House units, were adopted here – in this case allowing services to be accessible behind a single removable panel. The cladding is detailed, with vertical panels staggered and punctuated by a narrower, textured strip between storeys, and a deeper, cornice-like one at the top. Each house is further delineated by a stepped-back panel between them. In all, this has the effect of proportionally balancing and grounding the façades, compared with those of the House units, where the grid of silver-grey panels suggests a metallic skin.

The sense of weight and solidity is underlined by the Fab Houses’ deep reveals – the cassette system and cladding together meaning the windows sit within walls with a depth of 500mm. The thresholds to each house are neatly delineated and formed with a stripped-back contemporary take on the suburban model: hedge (here a low herb one) and a square of lawn, with waste and recycling bins encased in chunky timber box structures running up between each pair of houses. 

Inside, the layout is predominantly open-plan downstairs. The kitchen forms a large alcove to the front off a single living space, into which the stair drops directly. At the back, full-height French doors lead out to a timber deck, in size and surfacing more terrace than garden. Ceilings are raised perceptually higher by exposing the timber joists of the module system, while white-painted, MDF-clad walls, full-height doors and blond timber floors are designed to keep the space light and clean and increase the sense of spatial generosity. 

A noticeable feature is the birch plywood stair – continuing the ‘exposed materials’ principle – which, together with the exposed rafters, gives a tactile, warmer feel to the interiors than in the House units. The stairs, with a skylight above, lead the eye up, animate the centre of the house and allow light to drop down into its depth.


  • Begun: Oct 2017
  • Completed: Mar 2018
  • Floor area: 910m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Procurement: Design and Build
  • CO2 Emissions: 1940kg/m2/year
  • Address: 1 The Plateau, Smith's Dock, North Shields, NE29 6TH, United Kingdom

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