Faced with a major housing crisis but not wanting to lose the long-term value of land available for development, Lewisham Borough Council (LBC) investigated the potential for creating a ‘pop up’ village which could generate local employment, address the immediate crisis but also be relocated to a different site in future.

After the architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners secured planning permission for a mixed-use development on the former Ladywell Leisure Centre site (demolished in 2014), LBC conducted a competitive tender and subsequently commissioned SIG Offsite as the principle contractor, with the brief to manage the complete design, build and relocation in future if required.

Now known as Ladywell Pop Up Village in South East London, the site is fully occupied and operational.


SIG Offsite took responsibility for the project from the point of planning approval. Acting as principle contractor, the team liaised directly with the client which translated into time and cost savings for LBC as the streamlined approach removed the need for external consultants and reduced the time spent in meetings.

Unlike most offsite developments, the initial speed of construction was only one of the major drivers. The second priority for LBC was the ease with which the development could potentially be demounted and transported to another location, whilst maintaining its structural integrity.

By using the structural panel solution from SIG Offsite, which incorporates patented connection system allowing full building modules to be connected to each other. This approach was key to meeting the ‘demountable’ specification of the project.

Working to the brief, SIG Offsite designed and constructed a four storey mixed-use development which comprised eight retail units on the ground floor and 24 two bed apartments on the upper floors.

A complete offsite solution, the units were manufactured and fully fitted out at the SIG Offsite facility in the Midlands and then transported for construction on-site in London. Managing every aspect of the process, SIG Offsite coordinated the groundworks and oversaw the connection of the modules to the service lines – delivering a fully functional village in just 12 months.

From approval through to landscape, SIG Offsite provided LBC with a hassle-free and efficient solution to its housing crisis whilst ensuring the true land value could be realised by an alternative development in the future.

On-site testing of the units showed excellent acoustic performance of 53dB (airborne) and 54dbB (impact) while air permeability was just 1.03. This high level of insulation has resulted in lower running costs with utility bills approximately £500 per year.

Andrew Partridge, Associate Partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners commented:

“When working with Lewisham Council on this project we identified that a moveable structure would meet the needs not only of this area, but of any others that require temporary housing in the future. SIG’s expertise and ability to create high-quality units offsite enabled us to realise the vibrant, modern designs of Ladywell, and we look forward to working with them again in the near future.”

With the ‘pop up’ village attracting widespread attention in the national press, the Guardian* quoted Roger Harding, the director of policy at the homelessness charity Shelter, as saying:

“This scheme is a great way of helping homeless families get back on their feet and it’s really positive to see Lewisham borough council looking for new ways to tackle the housing crisis.

We would encourage other councils to look at this model as a cost-effective way of keeping homeless families in good-quality homes in their local borough, close to friends, family, schools and jobs.

Ultimately, what’s most important to avoid families needing this sort of urgent support in the first place is to make sure we are building homes that are genuinely affordable to buy and rent for the long term.”

The article also reported positive feedback from residents, including Christelle Kapeu:

“When we came in, my second son actually didn’t want to sleep at all – he was so excited about the place and the balcony. You usually have houses with balconies, but it’s huge.

When you are outside, you can’t even imagine what is inside. You think, oh, this must be a small place, but when you come in, oh my God. I put all my stuff in and there is still some space left. It’s so spacious.”

Ladywell was opened for occupation in August, and received the Mayor’s Prize in the prestigious New London Architecture Awards, as well as the NLA award for Best Temporary Development.

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