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.
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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.*
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Intelligent integration of parking is key element in the success of residential layouts in use as evidenced by research for Space to Park. This is is a follow up to ‘What Works Where’ the English Partnership/Design for Homes guidance on approaches to parking published in 2006. It gives updated recommendations based on current policy and research into user satisfaction with parking at 402 schemes in Kent. Six case studies selected from the 402 schemes record why user satisfaction as an average was as low as -83%.
Parking in use was recorded on a Saturday morning when most people would be at home. Each case study is illustrated with a diagram showing rogue parking or “cars parked not in accordance with design”. In the case studies visited on Saturday mornings fifty percent of parking was outside allocated bays with people preferring to park on street (or pavement) rather than in courts.
The second of the four recommendations is: “Allocated parking spaces should cater for the average parking requirement of households based on the house size. Unallocated spaces should provide for at least twenty percent additional spaces.”
- Link the maximum number of allocated spaces to the average car ownership. One and two bedroomed houses and flats – one space, three bed units – would have a mix of one and two spaces (depending on their location) and four bed plus – two spaces.
- Ideally this figure would include garages that to be counted need to be at least three meters wide internally.
- This level of allocated spaces needs to have around twenty percent of unallocated spaces to take up the slack.
The research demonstrates what is already quite widely understood that over reliance on rear parking courts does not work well with actual user behaviour and that a variety of approaches to parking should be adopted in schemes to give more flexibility.
Space to Park (2013) is part of the AHRC funded Home Improvements Knowledge Exchange and has been developed jointly by Urbed, Design For Homes and the University of Edinburgh.
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