Waugh Thistleton use ARCHICAD for Ground Breaking Modular Housing Scheme

Established in 1997 Waugh Thistleton Architects is a London based architectural studio producing thoughtful and sustainable projects. The studio is a world leader in engineered timber and pioneer in the field of tall timber buildings. Architect Waugh Thistleton was chosen by Swan Housing Association to deliver a 100% affordable housing scheme.

Waugh Thistleton and Watts Grove

This landmark project will be the UK’s first mid-rise CLT modular scheme, precision engineered in Swan Housing’s factory it will bring 65 much needed homes to an undeveloped brownfield site in the Bow Common area of Tower Hamlets in east London. The project was one of the first that Waugh Thistleton designed to stage 3 using ARCHICAD after the studio switched from Vectorworks in 2017.

Waugh Thistleton Affordable Housing Scheme
Waugh Thistleton select Swan Housing Association to deliver a 100% affordable housing scheme.

As they have their own factory, this enables Swan to control its supply chain therefore they have more influence over the construction of the affordable housing it provides. As Waugh Thistleton has expertise in designing and building properties with CLT, there was a natural affinity between the two organisations.

“At Watts Grove, the 7 storey block of modules was assemble in a matter of weeks. When the modules arrive on site they are craned into place and bolted together very quickly”

Every module is manufactured offsite and completed to final fix in the factory. On arrival to site kitchens and bathrooms are already installed, electrics and plumbing are completed, and the modules are fully decorated. All that is required is to simply connect the modules together. Modular construction is a much quicker process overall as the work on site can be done in parallel with the manufacture offsite. Not only that, after the groundwork is complete the buildings are very fast to build.

All of these high quality modular homes are sustainable, energy efficient, and yet can be indistinguishable from traditionally built homes. However, unlike a traditionally built block there will be 2,350m3 of CLT making up the structure of Watts Grove, and this will lock away 1,857 tonnes of CO2, the building itself becoming a long term carbon store.

The materials have been chosen that are robust, hardwearing, and will enhance with time ensuring that the building will age with sensitivity. The colour scheme also handpicked with a muted colour palette of off-white and grey to complement the surroundings. All flats will benefit from full height composite windows, letting in high levels of natural light, with generous balconies. Private front doors to the ground floor flats and front gardens ensure an active street presence, with defensible space provided by carefully considered planting.

Waugh Thistleton 3D Document

Watts Grove will be a car free development for a mixed-tenure community, set within landscaped courtyard gardens. The buildings are defined by two new pedestrian routes across the site creating connections between neighbouring streets: a boulevard providing access to the Limehouse Cut canal, encouraging people to walk rather than drive and a pathway across the site from east to west improving pedestrian access to transport links. Further amenities are provided by including high quality play space that will benefit the wider community.

The switch to ARCHICAD

Computer modelling, photography and hand sketches are crucial tools in Waugh Thistleton’s design process, and how they communicate to clients. In 2017 the studio of 30 switched from Vectorworks to ARCHICAD Teamwork as their architectural tool of choice.

“Mat Smyly, architect at Waugh Thistleton, says: “The benefits of using ARCHICAD were huge. For example, with the Teamwork collaboration workflow, the ability to have a large team working on the project at the same time really sped up our processes”.

Creating door and area schedules was much quicker than using Vectorworks. Across the entire project there was a big time saving. Beyond the time savings, ARCHICAD helped the studio to simplify the coordination process to the client and contractor using 3D documents and mobile communication tool BIMx.

Waugh Thistleton Graphic Overrides

ARCHICAD’s graphical overrides were used extensively enabling the architects to display the shared ownership properties in one colour, and affordable properties in another – making it very easy to see straight away which was which on the plans.

Mat confirmed “We used graphical overrides to display the type of construction, with the elements manufactured offsite shown in green, and those elements constructed on site shown in yellow. Without ARCHICAD, we would have needed to manually assign the different colours which again would have been time-consuming.”

Industry Foundation Classes – or IFC, for short, makes it possible to hold and exchange relevant data between different software applications and is at the heart of openBIM. Throughout the project, Waugh Thistleton Architects exchanged information via IFC with key consultants including the structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers and groundworks engineers.

Mat explains: ‘It was a real bonus being able to share information in this way and very useful for clash detection. It took time for us to work out the best way to export and import data via IFC as it was the first time we were going through this process’

This modern method of construction saves considerable time on site and with repeatable elements the designs could be used as the basis for future developments, with a further time and cost saving. The first apartments will be ready for residents to move into in early 2020, with the final residents moving in at the end of the year.