A study trip to Amsterdam by the MArch and MAAD Communal Living studio at Cardiff University was the starting point for research into how housing typologies can support communal living in the widest sense. The studio visited the morphologically ambitious Wozoco and Silodam by MRDVR. On the way to Borneo Sporenburg we discovered Funenpark a collection of apartment villas in a shared park landscape and to the west the similarly arranged GWR Terrein. The studio also looked at work communities NDSM and Ru Pare. Recent models were compared to 20th century examples like the Duiker Open Air School built at the centre of a housing courtyard and Bijlmermeer the 60’s slab blocks now being reconnected with the ground. Honing in on recent co housing the studio studied apartments built in a serviced plots at Amstelloft and the exemplary Vrijburcht where 52 dwellings have been built by a co-housing group to also provide; childcare, a sailing school, café restaurant and shared gardens. Back in Cardiff we looked at published case studies such as Big Yard in Berlin with its two terraces across a linear shared garden and the New Ground Co Housing by and for senior residents and Collective Old Oak for young professionals in London.
The studio studied the land use arrangement and morphology of each type. These tissue studies are 4Ha or 200x200m, many of the buildings would suit a 0.5 Ha site. The recent NPPF called for Local Authorities to allocate 20% of land in smaller plots of 0.5 Ha – large sites are also beginning to propose 5% for self-build. The studies show how the different models of delivering housing that share land resources can lead to more diverse architecture and homes that have access to valuable amenities and enjoyable public spaces.
We were client advisers to the design competition for a housing exemplar for Whitehill Borden Eco Town. 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.
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.*
Who’s building housing with the kind of joie de vivre it deserves? Two custom build projects are being developed in Devon and Cornwall each developing different ways for buyers to influence the design of their home.
Localizing Custom Build, Trevenson Park, Pool, Cornwall, 54 custom build (part of 144 mixed tenure development), in progress completion in 2017
HTA have designed a masterplan for new housing surrounding the Heartlands Park in Pool, Cornwall. The Park is itself a new project a ‘cultural playground’ designed around former tin mining works it was awarded £22.3 million Big Lottery Living Landmarks Grant in 2007 and opened in 2012. The housing development will create a new residential community around the park linking it to adjacent residential areas. A ‘not the village green’ to be designed collaboratively with residents.
The developer Igloo have selected by competition six architect led ‘home manufacturers’ to design kit houses for the custom build part of the site. These collaborative teams include Mae with prefabrication specialists Riko; AOC with Cathedral Builders; Ash Sakula with Easebuild and FrameUK; Dwelle; HTA Design with Potton; or White Design with Modcell and Cadfan. Based on the Dutch example in Almere, Igloo intend to developed this model across the UK sourcing different home manufacturers in each location.
Developer – Igloo
Masterplan – HTA
Architects – Mae, AOC, Ash Sakula, HTA Design and White Design.
A slice of Eco Life, Bickleigh Custom Built Eco Village, Devon, 91 Self build plots, in progress.
This project is a joint venture between an experienced project manager and architect; Charles Everard and Bill Dunster. The site overlooks Dartmoor in Devon and is close to the village of Roborough. The 91 serviced plots are available for ‘kit homes’ provided by the developer or custom built homes where the ‘kit’ is adapted individually.
The homes will be insulated to give low heat loss at a U value of 0.15 W/m2k. This far better than current Building Regulations and is the equivalent of Code 6 ( the highest standard under the old Code for Sustainable Homes). The low energy fabric together with the integration of solar PV and a ‘heat hub’ drawing heat from a ‘solar loft’ for hot water will create a net zero energy home. To maximize solar energy generation the buildings are mainly set out along east/west facing terraces with roofs perpendicular to the face of the house or in short north/south facing terraces.
By advertising the project early on with a demonstration exhibition a ‘Slice of Eco Life’ in Plymouth City Centre the developer generated 300 expressions of interest in the project and and secured 30 reservation bids for the first phase of homes. The price of a three-bed eco-home is likely to be £185-195,000. Community building is also an important part of this development. One of the first buildings to be built is an agricultural shed that can be used for the assembly of the kit homes and when the development is built out can be used for social or economic functions.
Building for Life was re-launched in 2014, ten years after it was first devised. The national housing design standard has been simplified to make it more useful. It has been refocused as a place making or urban design standard concerned primarily with the bringing together of homes to make enduring residential neighbourhoods. The intention is that the design and construction of individual homes is to be covered by national space standards and Building Regulations. Good urban design and place making are so important because they have a long legacy. As the urban designer Sue Mc Glynn would say new street layouts last much longer than buildings defining places for 100’s and 1000’s of years. Everyone interested in creating truly sustainable places to live should be interested in good urban design and place making.
Building For Life is still the national standard because there is still an urgent need to drive improvement in our collective expectations for housing design. In the last decade national housing audits showed that up to thirty percent of all housing built shouldn’t have had planning permission and another thirty percent were just average. Building for Life can be used as a tool to actively test the quality of a design early on by assessing how it answers twelve key design questions. As a tool Building for Life 12 is designed to have ownership by communities, residents and developers. This shift in emphasis was used successfully in North West Leicestershire. In 2009 they adopted BFL as a standard in planning policy and made it into a place mark or quality award called Our Place. By persuading developers to use the standard themselves early in the design process and offering incentives to do well they were able to drive some really significant changes in overall quality.
Building for Life is set out in three sections covering three different scales of design; neighborhood, place and street and each containing four simple questions: Integrating into the Neighborhood – These are the neighbourhood scale questions these are about the give and take relationship between a new neighbourhood and existing settlements.
Creating a place – These questions focus on how the new place is being created and signals how new places are built up from a number of different components… sequences of buildings, types of streets, materials, form and the intelligent use of (and in addition to) existing qualities of place.
Street and Home – This last section is about the design of the street itself – about the careful integration of functions to create predominantly social spaces. It is a good idea to test a development early on. In fact it could often help the quality of development if local authorities did a strategic BfL assessment of sites before any designs come forward. There are far too many missed opportunities in connecting new development into existing streets and footpaths. If we really want to make sustainable places we have to get this right.