Three examples of ‘meanwhile’ development

‘Meanwhile development’ is temporary use of a space, an interim development while long-term planning decisions are made. The most common place most of us will encounter it is in pop-up shops, when small businesses or local artisans make use of empty shops. A big retailer may take the space on later, but it might take years, especially in an economic downturn. Why not let smaller companies use the space on a shorter lease?

Britain has something of a housing crisis at the moment. We don’t build enough houses, they’re too expensive, and there is no easy way out of it. But one thing we could do is make more use of meanwhile development, providing homes for people that need them now. They might be in place for two years or ten – the main thing is to create decent homes fast, in places where there’s a shortage. And just because they are temporary doesn’t mean they have to be inferior. Here are three examples of meanwhile development to learn from.

1. The Koda House
I wrote about this last year when it launched – the Koda House is a prefabricated sustainable starter home for £100,000. It is built in a factory, can be craned into position and installed in a single day. When it’s no longer needed, the classy minimalist home can be put back on a truck and moved somewhere else. The company are based in Estonia, where the Koda Home is already in use. I haven’t yet heard of anyone using them in Britain yet, but why not?

2. QED’s container homes
One company that is active in Britain is QED, who create moveable housing developments on demand, bringing spare urban land into use quickly. Their pop-up buildings are based on shipping containers, and they can be stacked to provide retail, workshops, or even multi-storey housing units. There are several of these around, including one in Lewisham in London, or this one in Acton. Hope Gardens has 60 apartments in moveable containers. The whole building is made of modular units that can be dismantled and endlessly reused.

3. The ZedPod
Option 3 doesn’t even need unused urban land. ZedFactory‘s ZedPods are designed to be installed over the parking bays of car parks, doubling up on the land use. We could have terraces of ZedPods in supermarkets and retail parks, college or hospital car parks. They are sustainable and self-contained, and once again, they can be taken down and moved if they are no longer needed.

4. Union Street Urban Orchard
Okay, a bonus idea that’s not to do with housing – if you’ve got spare land, there are other things you can do with it. Union Street Orchard was a meanwhile development in London from a few years ago. Fruit trees were grown in tubs and on pallets that could be moved and relocated, and a variety of events were held in the orchard over the summer it was there. Another project in south london had wildflowers planted on pallets, and community gardeners moved them around a series of empty lots for a number of years.


  1. My architecture thesis published in 1971 was a design for minimum cost, self-build flat-pack housing to address the homelessness issue of the time and identified a number of sites for temporary installations. “Plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: