This Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s  scheme in Leeds was set to prove that it is possible to develop an award-winning apartment block for the private-rented sector, then let it at below market rents and still make an attractive return on investment without any subsidy. The Leeds scheme was the second in a development blueprint programme called CASPAR – City-Centre Apartments for Single People at Affordable Rents. Architects Levitt Bernstein designed structure would boast larger than average 50m2 one-bedroom modular flats, comprised of some volumetric units, pre-fabricated by Potton Group offsite and semi-volumetric elements delivered flatpacked for assembly onsite by contractor Kajima, right in the centre of Leeds.

Following a super fast 36 week completion of the project, Atom Consultants’ Structural Engineers were called in to investigate signs of movement due to initial shrinkage of the timber in the pre-fabricated pods. The striking wood-framed curved building, which had won awards for sustainable design and innovation in low-cost urban housing, consisted of  wooden walkways tilting towards the inner courtyard, suspended between a steel frame and the prefabricated apartment units. Due to the shrinkage of the timber in the pods the walkways begun to tilt towards the bedroom units. Our structural engineers were tasked with establishing whether the timber had stopped moving, hence we took 6 monthly readings and were able to confirm that the movement had substantially completed by end of year 1.

Meanwhile, further defects in the prefabricated pods were flagged up, namely leakages in the pipework and baths, leading to “spongy” floors. A few vacant flats were opened up for investigation, which led to further problems being discovered, such as inappropriate grade of flooring being used in the bedrooms, which was not in line with design requirement, as well as the stronger wall panels, intended for lower levels being used for upper floors.

All those issues could have been corrected, if only enough goodwill would have been applied. Let this case study be a force for good to remind people that good things can emerge from innovation, but it requires a mindset of unconditional nobility to persist in the face of adversity to develop excellence for all without financial advancement for a few only.



Your contribution on the project is very highly appreciated and you are showing high competence in you domain.

Wim van Roy, from Marine Harvest ASA

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