housing exemplar / fresh talent brought to affordable, sustainable and adaptable homes

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We were client advisers/enablers commissioned for a design competition for a housing exemplar for Whitehill Borden Eco Town. Exhibition Mews, the three terraced houses built as a result of the competition was recently shortlisted for the Stephen Lawrence Prize. A prize intended to reward fresh talent working with smaller budgets. As the CABE Enabler we supported two different project managers to develop the design brief and promote a design competition, providing continuity to pursuit of the project aims. As well as achieving high standards of energy efficiency the aim was to create a replicable, carbon neutral, terraced housing typology that could contribute to the character of the new Eco Town in the South Downs.

The client was dissuaded from holding a single stage open competition as this calls on too many practices to invest free time that is of little benefit to the client. Because early stage design development can’t be tested in dialogue with the client. Instead a two stage selection process called for expressions of interest and shortlisted five teams to develop sketch designs in conversation with the client team. We designed a competition brand and the brief was carefully set out to signal the creative aspirations for the project. Adverts were placed in key design journals and fifty-four submissions were received.

We devised selection criteria that would prioritise the client’s wish to identify an imaginative team who would be able to extend the design brief whilst working with budget constraints.  In the judging of the competition; creativity, the ability to develop environmentally responsive design, technical capability and communications skills were given 70% of the score, track record and range of appropriate expertise were given 30%. Financial and insurance requirements were set to pass or fail but with a threshold that would not exclude SMEs. A category into which most young and often fleet footed practices fall.

The competition was won by Ash Sakula Architects because their approach was considered by the jury to be most liveable. In their design every day needs for storage and domestic activities are carefully considered. The cubic form of the house is extended into the front garden with and un-insulated entrance porches and store and space for laundry is made on the upper level. The construction is timber framed and timber shingles are used to clad the rear elevation.

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Photograph: Stephen Gardener – Ground Floor View – Ash Sakula Architects

https://www.architecture.com/Awards/Awards2016/StephenLawrencePrize/StephenLawrencePrize2016.aspx


 

elegant houses in simple terraces make characterful use of Stroud site

Building Communities at Applewood (Cashes Green) – Stroud – Gloucesteshire.

78 Homes – completed 2014.

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Building on the successes of Hab’s Swindon Project; The Triangle, Applewood uses elegant house types in simple terraces with parking located in front of buildings. Despite the small scale of the site it has a diverse and generous green infrastructure. The process of creating the development has been carefully choreographed and is seen by HabOakus as community building. For example an early opportunity to bring associated redundant allotments back to life has meant that existing and new residents had a meaningful shared space early on.

The developer has put emphasis on spatial quality of the interiors providing residents with light and space, something we all recognize when we see or feel it. The new buildings are super insulated and triple glazed and each has a gas boiler and Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery Systems. There has been attention to detail in the design of key elements such as the front door and in the careful location of service outlets to the back of the houses.

Mike Robert’s from HabOakus says well functioning communities enable people to live longer in their own homes and this has been shown to be the case for cohousing. Where small groups of homes are built as communities first and foremost. Research in Denmark and the United States has shown that the people who live in cohousing live independently in their communities for longer.*


 

new Bristol and London mayors set out ambitions for progressive and inclusive cities

Since arriving in office this year the new Labour Mayors in London and Bristol are both working to reduce housing inequalities and increase the availability of affordable housing to ordinary people. These mayors understand that for their cities the lack of affordable housing and increasing wealth inequalities as well as being morally wrong have a significant social and economic cost. For Sadiq Khan in London, delivering genuinely affordable housing in new developments was such an important part of his election campaign that is was so called ‘a housing policy referendum’. He is planning to set a minimum standard of 35% affordable housing working towards a target of 50%.

But importantly these city leaders are also aware that to make a more inclusive city in future it will be important not to only consider housing but the wider built environment.In October the London Mayor published ‘A City for All Londoners’. This celebrates how London ‘attracts and integrates people from all over the world’. Issues of being excluded from the economic life of the city and the need to share “prosperity, culture and economic development” are identified. To achieve this the document highlights the value of housing with good transport accessibly and mixed use development to enable people to access housing and jobs, culture and social infrastructure.

Marvin Rees the Mayor of Bristol is also setting out an ambitious agenda for an inclusive city. He is developing strategies to share prosperity in a city where life expectancy can vary by ten years from place to place. He is aware that public institutions and public spaces can deliver flexible spaces to support; health, well being and social inclusion. The city is creating a housing delivery company and acknowledges the value of linking the creation of housing, education and health – with employment accessibly. In future Bristol plans to densify existing mono functional areas of housing creating not only new homes but building communities.

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https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/city_for_all_londoners_nov_2016.pdf

A City For All – Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees’ Annual Address and Debate 2016


 

“we don’t have to wait for carnival” to do something amazing says Bristol’s first city poet laureate

This summer Marvin Rees the Mayor of Bristol appointed Miles Chambers as a Poet Laureate, the first in the city’s history. The performance poet and social commentator wrote a poem ‘Bristol, Bristol’ for the Mayor’s swearing in ceremony saying: “we don’t have to wait for carnival every year”- let’s do something amazing together and express the spirit of the city in the here and now.

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Image: Fiesta Bombarda Bristol Halloween Carnival

 

high quality design is crucial say’s the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission

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Has there has been a shift in thinking about infrastructure planning and provision in the UK – one that recognises that ‘ad hoc’ approaches allows regions and communities to get left behind?

The Government states it is committed to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) launched this spring and has published a charter (12.10.16). the NIC’s role is to advise government to support growth, improve competitiveness and improve people’s quality of life. The Commission will carry out a National Infrastructure Assessment once every parliament, commission studies on pressing challenges and monitor progress.

It’s encouraging to see that earlier in September Commissioner Sadie Morgan (co- founding director of dRMM Architects) visited design studio Publica to identify four principles for integrating infrastructure planning with high quality design. They identified that good design is essential and cities can use infrastructure effectively to become ‘more liveable, sustainable, productive and resilient places’ by;

  • Increasing capacity for future generations
  • Creating liveable neighbourhoods (and cities)
  • Supporting and promoting density and diversity
  • Animating the ground plane and creating a sense of civic identity

At the event professor Sadie Morgan said: “As the National Infrastructure Commission seeks to transform the way we plan and deliver major infrastructure projects in this country, harnessing high quality design will be absolutely crucial.” It could be that the choice of Commissioners that includes expertise in; culture, transport, design, technology, regeneration and economics also sets the scene for infrastructure to be considered more holistically in future.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/charter-for-the-national-infrastructure-commission

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-infrastructure-commission-visits-publica-urban-design-team

Image: Stadsbalkon, Cylcle Park and Station Forecourt, Groningen – KCAP, NL


 

 

ten days in Las Vegas

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Nolli’s Map of Rome – Learning from Las Vegas 1972.

Learning from Las Vegas (Venturi, R., Scott Brown, D., Izenour, S. 1972) is an example of a research project that led to new ways of thinking about design. In 1968 the researchers and a group of students spent ten days in Las Vegas with free board and lodging at the Stardust Hotel. Having spent three weeks in the library they carried out observational research recording the characteristics of the town.

The surveys were designed to explore the relationship between; movement, iconography and public space in the car orientated landscape of the Las Vegas strip. Each element was recorded as layer of a map recording the disposition of: undeveloped land, asphalt, autos, buildings, ceremonial space and finally ‘Nolli’s Las Vegas’ which brought the layers ‘asphalt’ and ‘ceremonial spaces’ together to show how the commercial strip was structured as a series of public places.

leaning-from-las-vegas-asphaltLas Vegas: Asphalt – Learning from Las Vegas 1972.

Since then designers routinely use layers to observe and analyse the key features of a site, adapting and extending this set of layers to describe a design proposal. Some layers record a general background understanding of the site but some like the layers in Learning from Las Vegas are much more specific  about the particular drive of the project or the specific character of a place.


 

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blue infrastructure a design opportunity

There is plenty of sound advice and exemplary design available to guide designers and developers when integrating sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) and make this an opportunity to add to the character of a place.Integration of SuDS

The excellent diagram (above) from Planning for SuDS – making it happen published by CIRA in 2010 shows the range of ways SuDS can be integrated in the more formal or urban edges of a scheme by being integrated in paving, tree pits, rain gardens and roofs or running alongside streets in rills, bioretention strips or infiltration trenches. It shows how SuDS can provide contrasting spaces such as filter strips, naturalised swales, wildlife and wetland areas. Advice about the appropriate assembly of components is continued in more detail in the document with illustrations of the best components to use for high, medium and low density development and descriptions of how to embed SuDS in Design Codes or Retrofit into existing streets and spaces.

The authors of Planning for SuDS identify the “need to embrace water management as an opportunity” and advise design teams to consider the benefits and opportunities early on. A good scheme will be compatible with the landscape and integrated with the overall design strategy providing multiple benefits, for example, drainage and public open space or car parking. As well as managing flood risk benefits could include improved; water quality, amenity and biodiversity, water resources and recreation and education for communities. The benefits to developers in integrating SuDS are the reduction of maintenance costs associated with heavily engineered drainage and a possible increase the value of nearby homes.

Some important design principles are that sustainable urban drainage (SUDS) should mimic natural drainage, control water at its source and use sequence of components to manage flows of water and improve water quality. They note that: SUDS mimic natural drainage patterns by:

  • storing runoff and releasing it slowly (attenuation)
  • allowing water to soak into the ground (infiltration)
  • filtering out pollutants
  • allowing sediments to settle out by controlling the flow of the water
  • creating attractive environments for people and wildlife.

Focusing on SUDS strategies for urban design projects the most illuminating case studies featuring in this and other more recent guidance are:

  • Upton, Northamptonshire – which set out a design code for two street types integrating SUDS, one with SUDS at the centre and another with SUDS to one side with a footpath to the inside.
  • Cambourne Pool Redruth Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) – where a design approach has been developed across an area with the strategic integration of swales or leats to open up new areas for development.
  • Malmo, Sweden and Reiselfeld, Feiburg, Germany are widely cited as good examples because of the bold way they integrate SuDS bringing water and wildlife features close to homes. The indefatigable Essex County Council have produced a design guide illustrated by these examples from Malmo and Reiselfeld and expanding on the advice in ‘making it happen’ with Essex focused case studies.

Dickie, S, McKay, G, Ions, L, Shaffer, P –  Planning for SuDS – making it happen, CIRIA, 2010 http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/default/files/C687%20Planning%20for%20suds.pdf.pdf

Upton Design Codes V2, Northampton Borough Council, 2005

http://www.northampton.gov.uk/site/scripts/download_info.php?downloadID=332

Nicholls, D, Cornwall County Council – Surface Water Drainage and Green Infrastructure

Sustainable Drainage Systems, Essex County Council, 2014

https://www.essex.gov.uk/Environment%20Planning/Environment/local-environment/flooding/View-It/Documents/suds_design_guide.pdf

See also ongoing archive of case studies at Susdrain:

http://www.susdrain.org/case-studies/


 

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