James Latham Ltd (Lathams) and Garnica Plywood supports landmark homeless accommodation with the provision of Duraply for the project’s external requirements.

Originally opened in February 2020, Project Malachi in Ilford, London, is The Salvation Army’s latest homeless accommodation initiative and the first of its kind to target rough sleepers who have No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

The pop-up hostel consists of 42 units, creating welcoming, friendly and safe refuge for those needing to use its accommodation and services.

While volunteering for the Salvation Army, trainee architect George Fisher noticed a need for some outdoor social spaces for the residents to relax, connect and enjoy being outside. Out of this need this project was instigated.

Designed for Durability
Timeframes around the project were tight, so building with agility would be crucial. This led to the project’s lead designer, George Fisher, to collaborate with U-Build, a pioneering contractor dedicated to simplifying construction processes through sustainable, volumetric and modular construction methods.

So, alongside Project Malachi’s homeless residents, U-build and George Fisher developed a pioneering flatpack outdoor social space concept.

Significantly, the use of U-build’s innovative volumetric construction system rapidly accelerated the design and build process, This meant each individual structure could be easily and conveniently built, even if those volunteering to construct the shelters had little construction experience. Importantly, it kept the process inclusive for homeless residents wanting to contribute to the design and build of the structures.

To meet the demands of the spec, ensuring there was no compromise on performance yet keeping costs to a minimum, choosing the right materials was crucial. Despite being easy to assemble and install, Fisher and U-Build had to ensure the durability of the social structures so they could be used and enjoyed by the community for years to come.

This meant selecting products that not only looked visually appealing but could also withstand the elements, atmospheric urban pollution and constant occupancy.

Supporting the Community
Fisher had worked with leading materials distributor, James Latham Ltd (Lathams), on a previous Salvation Army project and was keen to do so once again.

First approaching them in July 2021, he found the team keen to offer free support and consultancy for Project Malachi, as well as advice on a material solution that could meet the brief. Whilst it was agreed that plywood would provide the best option for the structure, making an immediate choice on brand proved trickier.

However, a discussion between Lathams and premium, sustainable plywood brand Garnica during the specification phase proved fruitful. On hearing about the initiative, and the challenge, the supplier was keen to be involved, and agreed to support the product cost of the materials needed.

This has resulted in the donation a significant amount of external grade plywood required for the construction of the new outdoor structures, particularly 150m2 of Garnica’s high-performance poplar Duraply.

Meeting the Brief
Excellent value, exceptionally attractive and with an external warranty of 15 years, Garnica Duraply perfectly dovetailed with the project’s requirements.

Its durability, achieved through its proprietary production and treatment techniques, makes it suitable for outdoor use, even in the most demanding conditions, being able to withstand moisture, insect, and fungal damage.

Entirely composed of sustainable plantation Poplar wood, Duraply’s lightness, surface quality, and ease of machining made it the ideal choice. Simple to fabricate offsite and install on-site, the construction phase of the project was fast-paced, with all shelters assembled and installed within 3 days.

During this time, George Fisher led local volunteers and hostel residents in the assembly of the flat pack structures. Despite varying levels of confidence and experience they worked together as a team to get the structures built to a high-quality finish.

Opened in May 2022, Project Malachi’s new outdoor seating areas have achieved a friendly, communal atmosphere and a safe space for the residents to relax and socialise. George Fisher and U-Build have received nothing but positive feedback from its residents and the employees.

Focusing on the project, George Fisher says, “By the time we had finished building the structures we were exhausted, but the sense of collective achievement we felt was amazing. The process of building the outdoor social spaces created many new connections between the residents, who are now experts in the construction and maintenance of the structures, and I felt I was leaving the new social spaces in safe hands. For me this project really shines light on the importance of bringing end users into the design and build of their own spaces, and how empowering that process can be, particularly when the end users are those normally excluded from making their own space within the city.”

Commenting on the use of Garnica Duraply, Stuart Devoil, Lathams’ Group Head of Marketing says: “The project required highly-resistant but easy-to-work and cost-effective materials to ensure maximum value from the charity’s investment. Garnica is the perfect solution, embodying all these attributes and more. Seeing these units complete and the space open for occupancy is fantastic and it was a great privilege to be involved in an activity that will enrich and enhance the community.”

To find out more about U-Build click here.

To find out more about Lathams’ Garnica Poplar Plywood range, click here.

To find out more about George Fisher’s work contact him on georgefisher66@hotmail.co.uk or see his Instagram here.