Richard Rogers’ Pre-Fab Y-Cube Takes on UK Housing Crisis

The Y-Cube Deployed. Image Courtesy of

The Y-Cube, a £30,000 factory-built 26 square meter flat which can be easily transported and craned into place, has been prototyped and successfully tested in the UK. The YMCA asked Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to create the Y-Cube, an affordable alternative for residents moving on from the non-profit’s hostels. And now, the YMCA wants more of these one-bedroom dwellings.

“The beauty is that the units can be moved off site as quickly as they are installed,” says Andy Redfearn of the YMCA, “as we operate on short-term leases – we expect people to stay [in the Y-Cube] for between three to five years, giving them time to skill up and save for a deposit.”

The red oblong box, which has already been nicknamed ‘the Monopoly hotel,’ takes eight weeks to build in the factory and one week to install on site. Rented out at £140 per week, the YMCA projects the project will pay for itself in 15 years and guarantee a 5% return to speculating “social investors.”

Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

The prototype, tested this February, achieved the highest rating (Level 6) of the code for sustainable homes in the UK, prompting the YMCA to order 36 more units for a large-scale test site in Mitcham. The units will be stacked three-high and arranged in a horse-shoe configuration around a small garden. A second 36-unit scheme received planning permission this week for the Leather Gardens estate in Newham.

Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

“The next step is to find a bigger scheme. If we can get the demand right – something like 150-plus units per year – the aim would have a factory in the borough itself, employing local people at the heart of the community,” says Ivan Harbour, the RSH+P partner in charge of the project.

Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Read more at the Guardian and BD Online.

Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Cite: Gipe, Andrew. "Richard Rogers’ Pre-Fab Y-Cube Takes on UK Housing Crisis" 27 Feb 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Gerald Peake

    Housing Crisis? This looks like a Styling Crisis to me! Come on guys, surely you can do better than this? The rest of Europe must be on the floor with laughter; Post Modern Dull? PS: Make sure it’s watertight so it can easily transform itself into a houseboat when the floods return;)

  • mike t

    Whilst I applaud the intention and accept this may be a solution of sorts, it really is awful to look at.
    When I was a kid there were rows of asbestos garages that were I now see precursors of this effort.
    And I rather wonder where the thirty grand went?

  • Alex

    Im confused. How are these classed as one bed? Minimum GiA for a studio is 36sqm yet this suggests 26sqm is planning approved. How is this acceptable?

  • mark

    @Gerald Peake – ok style-guru, rather than writing zingers, how about you design and build a feasible affordable housing prototype within budget that betters Rogers’?

    • Gerald Peake

      @mark – I am a stylist and designer, I’m not sure what you mean about ‘zingers’ it was a honest appraisal of a concept from a different point of view, other than the architecture profession. Yes, a feasible affordable housing prototype would be interesting, there are many already existing and this, for me, lacks the one thing that architects often forget, that a building should be attractive. My comments about the floods were also relevant, as this type of building would be ideal for flood prone areas next to the Thames? They could be tethered in some way and allowed to rise with the water? This solution is not much further on from the pre-fabs of the 1950′s!

      • mark

        @Gerald Peake – Thank you for your thoughtful response, my comment wasn’t really aimed at your profession (I’m a designer myself) or your critique of the work, which of course you entitled like it or otherwise. I suppose my comment was aimed at the types of comments you find on sites like this, which tend to be on the glib side of things & don’t offer much else in terms of engagement with the work, had I read your above comment I probably won’t have replied. I do like your idea of housing the responds to environmental factors such as flooding.

        @BRL I’m not from the UK but that sounds quite expensive to me.

  • BRL

    Is 140 ppw affordable though ?

  • Jamie Jo Harris