Blog: Offsite SECBE Awards 2019 finalist - Ampersands Apartments

28 May 2019

Sponsored by Heathrow Limited

Ampersands Apartments - submitted by Masonry Frame Systems

Masonry Frame Systems (MFS) were approached by Haxted Estates to review the suitability of their Silka Element system and their DfMA approach for the construction of the structural envelopes of 118 apartments in 5 blocks. Embracing the innovations of the Lissmac mini cranes and the PCC cantilever balcony units, Haxted explored all options to accelerate the build process, to lessen or relieve the impact of the impending skills crisis and to limit/negate further delays during the winter.

The project had suffered numerous delays in planning so it was a time critical project occurring in a very busy area for development - Croydon, London. The original design was a traditional ‘masonry’ brick and block construction and did not wholly suit other offsite/modular formats, and due to the ‘high’ rise the client was against a ‘timber frame from a robustness and potential fire risk perspective.

The project was due to commence in July 2017 with an 84 week build programme and scheduled to run over two winters, and as such the construction was heavily dependent on bricklayer trades and exposed to the potential delays of adverse weather.

The development of MFS’s hybrid masonry/concrete frame concept into their DfMA solution has mass appeal to the construction industry for ‘medium to high’ rise construction of flats, apartments, care & retirement homes and student accommodation. It is all designed and manufactured offsite for assembly on site. The design is 100% fully BIM compliant, enabling all clash detection and builders work holes and containment routes to be designed and formed offsite in the factory.

It has the flexibility and adaptability of traditional construction yet the external facade is taken entirely off the ‘critical path’. In fact, it will support all forms of rain screen cladding, brick slip systems and the like - eliminating the need for traditional brickwork and bricklayers. It comprises an extra-large format load-bearing ‘masonry’ block and PCC floor, stairs and balcony components. It is capable of being used to 12 storeys high and it is fully non-combustible. All cutting is carried out offsite, with all waste recycled into future product.

Less than 1/20th of the traditional water content is required for site mixing of the Silkafix adhesive, and the energy consumed in drying out significantly reduced. It offers significant improvements in time, cost and productivity with a 50% reduction in labour and a 70% increase in new labour. The system also offers greater certainty of delivery, lower overall build costs and an earlier ROI. 

Significant improvements in organisation and site logistics are also achieved and a consequential improvement in health and safety. The mini cranes virtually eliminate the need for manual labour handling and promote less fatigue and physicality required on site, with the prospect of greater longevity, diversity and reduced strain. The Silka system reduces the need for skilled labour, such as bricklayers on site, speeding up housing delivery in the UK.

In addition to this, the fact that the system is significantly less physically demanding and irrespective of age and gender - almost anyone can be trained to adopt the system - broadens the appeal for local training initiatives. It is also attractive to a younger generation as they see the system as new, exciting and innovative - unlike the traditional trowel trades.


  • If the industry embraced this new construction process, it would have a transformational impact on the mid-rise housing market
  • Ability to address the skills shortage and attract new entrants for this sector of the market
  • Zero cutting, waste and manual handling on site

For more details:

Visit Masonry Frame Systems

The SECBE 2019 Offsite Award is sponsored by Heathrow Limited.

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