Last week we attended the Greenbuild Expo in Manchester, exploring innovative products such as load bearing insulation for thermal bridge reduction and recycled plastics for external works. We also had the pleasure of being finalists in the Greenbuild Awards.
The Greenbuild Awards 2013 recognise true achievement looking for low-energy buildings that go the extra mile to reduce their environmental impact. The Blurton Community Hub in Stoke on Trent was a finalist within the Breakthrough Award for Innovation. The building features integrated low energy measures including a 33kw GSHP, 9kw PV roof mounted arrays, large scale heat recovery system solar thermal water heating, infra red lighting controls and rainwater storage and recycling. We are monitoring the buildings performance against its expected BREEAM Excellent rating and will use the info to assist the successful future management of the building.
The building is part of the Ingestre Square development, a phased mixed use project including housing, flats, commercial/retail units as well as the Hub and its community garden. The project, due to be completed this summer, is being developed by Aspire Housing Group and Stoke on Trent City Council.
Our thanks to our clients, our project team colleagues Poole Dick Associates, RED Landscape, and Sustain, and the contractor Kier Partnership Homes.
Construction is well underway on Meon Grove, one of our projects for Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT). We’re working with Jessup Brothers Ltd who are building 12 houses and 18 flats to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 using a predominantly ‘fabric-first’ strategy. This is the first project we’ve developed as a full Building Information Model (BIM) at all stages since we took the decision to switch the whole office over to Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD last year and the benefits for all involved have been clear to see. From the simple improvements in coordination between storeys during planning and drawing work, through to the detailed discussions and testing of steel fabrication requirements or mechanical services, the project team has used the 3D model in numerous ways.
Team meetings often take place with the model projected on the wall running directly in ArchiCAD, allowing us to interrogate any part of the building and test ideas by making live adjustments. Using both BIMx and Tekla BIMsight we’ve also been able to issue the model to others in a format that allows them to view the information on their own machines without additional training of hardware requirements. We issue the files using our online project management tool – Basecamp, ensuring that file sizes and e-mail constraints don’t prevent access.
Whilst full integration and use of the model on screen is the obvious goal with BIM, the value of simply improving drawing output with more 3D information should not be overlooked. Being able to better understand the overall geometry of the buildings thanks to wireframes or cut-away sections has also been welcomed by the site management.
The construction sector has been debating the cost of BIM adoption exhaustively for several years and much discussion centres around the value of the return on investment, particularly for small practices like ours. Our experience in this first year of full adoption has proved to us on many occasions that moving to BIM tools was the right decision. Choosing to offer BIM output as a standard part of our service on all our projects in future is how we intend to continue improving our service and providing value to our clients. Next comes the challenge of working with other BIM ready clients and contractors to explore all the possibilities of a complete virtual building model, from concept to construction and on to hand over and facilities management… Who’s up for it?
October 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm
· Filed under self build
Custom Home Build continues to get the support it deserves from numerous organisations, funders and commentators at the moment and financial support for self-build groups being provided by the government is helping to kickstart a number of projects. These early adopters will get to explore all the ways that building a home for your family can be so uniquely challenging from not only a construction and financial point of view but a personal and emotional one as well. We hope to be starting work shortly with the seven residents fortunate enough to take part in the first Custom Home Build site in Stoke on Trent, having recently achieved outline planning approval in Penkhull for the first of what the council hope will be several sites across the city.
We’ve had two evening events (launch event in Stoke on Trent shown on the left) to meet the potential investors so far, along with the team from Buildstore who are offering financial and project management support. We couldn’t have been more delighted by turnout, the variety of people who came to see us and the breadth of ideas and aspirations they hoped to bring to their new home. Talking through the ways an architect might assist on a self-build project was very useful to us as well as the residents themselves, as we’re determined to ensure we can provide as much input as possible within the confines of the ordinary self-build budget. We kicked off with a virtual model of the street to help set the scene for the Penkhull project (left) and it’s clear to us that innovative use of BIM technology is going to be a crucial part of what we provide. The level of commitment from residents to energy saving measures as a fundamental principle of a project was also deeply encouraging in a market that so often struggles to ascribe any value to the ‘green £’.
The importance of the relationship between energy, building strategy and finance is also fundamentally linked to the success of Custom Home Build because the backbone of this market will be the lenders. Whilst there are several mortgage packages available for self-build already – tailored to staged release of funds as a building progresses – there is much still to be done with the relationship between estimated property value, the technical performance of the fabric and the resulting reduction in bills and monthly outgoings.
We had the pleasure of attending the Build It Magazine awards yesterday (right) and shared a table with one of the lenders who may be involved in our project. The common ground between architect and mortgage lender proved to lie in the field of building warranty and the predictable concerns over innovation. If a construction process or material choice proves to be unsupported by the necessary structural warranty provider then the lender is too exposed. The key issue here – and perhaps the one that is most easily forgotten – is the longer life of the building beyond the original self-builder. Even if they and the original lender agree between themselves that a particular approach represents no risk, what if a future lender during a later sale (or, dare we say it, following repossession) has no confidence in it?
Rob’s personal experience of a self-build valuation process, involving completing a form that contained questions that were twenty years out of date, has recently served as a timely reminder that those of us enthused by the prospect of helping more people build their own home must make sure we include the bank or building society in the design team.
It’s no exaggeration to say that we can’t wait to get the Penkhull project moving, and we look forward to taking the mortgage lender with us on the journey.
Axis Design joined the team of Architects for Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) in 2009. Since then we’ve worked on a number of sites, 5 of which are now complete. This important work to deliver quality homes for Birmingham City Council continues and we’ve had a busy few months working on several new sites. As things stand, we currently have 2 sites which have been submitted for planning approval (image below right) and we have recently gained planning permission for a scheme in Bartley Green. Additionally, work is underway on a site in Sheldon and we recently attended the official opening event for 27 new homes we designed at Pype Hayes.
The homes at Pype Hayes have been a particularly interesting project for us. Back in 1989, Axis were appointed in an advisory capacity to the Pype Hayes Steering Group. Pype Hayes was an estate of over 1300 Boswell homes built in the 1930′s, but the buildings were designated defective and local residents formed a steering group in order to have control over the changes to the estate that were so desperately needed. Our involvement with the steering group led to our appointment as Masterplanners and Concept Architects for the wider masterplan of the entire estate.
Our involvement with the Pype Hayes resident group continued and the final phases of the development of the estate was to be delivered under BMHT. Serendipitously for us, we had already been appointed to the architect’s framework for BMHT and the design of 27 individual homes which would form the final phase of the development fell to us. We were able to call on 20 years experience of working on the estate – we know the area well, we know the residents, and we were able to apply our experience of social housing design to ensure high quality homes for the final group of new residents.
It was a pleasure for us to work with the residents group again – they saw us as old friends thanks to our one-to-one work with them previously. Working closely with them, assisted by Waterloo Housing Association and supported by Birmingham City Housing Department throughout the last couple of decades means we have helped deliver a successful transformation on the estate. Retaining an involvement for 23 years makes this our longest running project since Axis Design was formed 30 years ago.
A key handover event was held at the end of September 2012 to celebrate the success of the project, to recognise the hard work and dedication of the residents steering group, and to mark the completion of this last phase of works. The final 27 homes were delivered by Keepmoat Homes on behalf of BMHT in a process overseen by Capita Symonds. The photo (above left) shows representatives from the Pype Hayes residents group with Councillor Tahir Ali (3rd from left) at the key handover event last month.
Over 50 local residents and community representatives came along to the public consultation event held in Ladywood last month for the latest Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) scheme we’ve been working on.
We have developed 3D models in BIM which allowed residents to take them on virtual journey through the proposals, giving them a clear idea of how the area will look when the development is complete. Sharing these drawings and models prompted comments and feedback which form a valuable part of the design process prior to the submission of a planning application. We also created a dedicated website which will help us keep local residents informed of the project’s progress.
A few weeks ago Axis Design nominated the BMHT team at Birmingham City Council for WMCCE’s Client of the Year award. We were invited to join Capita Symond’s table at the annual Celebrating Construction awards dinner last week and we were delighted to learn that our nomination had been successful. Here’s what the judges said:
The deserving winner in this category is Birmingham City Council’s Homes & Neighbourhoods Directorate. They have shown a clear commitment to meeting the urgent need for high quality sustainable homes and communities providing a growing legacy for the city through BMHT.
Axis Design Architects have nominated the BMHT Team for this category because they believe the project has greatly benefited from their positive attitude to open collaboration throughout – engaging in dialogue and supporting innovative housing solutions.
Final preparations are under way for our collaboration with Stoke City Council and Buildstore next week at the launch of the Custom Home Build project. Initial proposals for one of the sites being offered are complete and we’ll be presenting them to the public and discussing the future of the scheme.
To get the debate started we’ve created some example house types that self builders might consider. We’ll also be providing info about our Passivhaus research and showing examples of materials and products that we think a self build project could benefit from.
We’ve been working on a development in Chell Heath on behalf of Stoke on Trent City Council and Staffordshire Housing Association.
Planning approval for 17 purpose-built bungalows was secured in early 2010 and the £1.5m development was delivered under a Design & Build Contract by Seddon Construction. Designed for elderly and disabled residents, these are the first homes to be built by Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 30 years.
We went along to the official Open Day at Warren Road earlier this month and spoke to some of the new residents, wheelchair users, who praised their new home for being warm, comfortable and spacious.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council also spoke to some of the other new tenants:
… Stephen and Hannah Lowe, and their 16-year-old son Josh, who uses a wheelchair and has hypoplastic anaemia from inadequately functioning bone marrow, are thrilled with their new home.
Stephen, 42, said: “We had lived in a town house in Burslem for 14 years. It was very difficult for Josh to use the stairs, and also because we needed to keep the house warm because of Josh’s condition, we were spending up to £800 a quarter on electricity. Having a beautiful bungalow like this really helps, we are really appreciative of our new home.”
(full press release from the council can be found here)
The project is now complete, all homes have been let and the last of the new tenants will be moving in over the next few weeks. A communal garden has been created for residents and the south-facing rears allowed us to include PV panels. Overall, the scheme delivers Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.
This week (which is week 16 for those of you who’ve been paying attention), Rob was invited to talk about housing design excellence at the Midlands Regional office for the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA).
Organised and run by the HCA in central Birmingham, the main aim of the event was to share ideas and results about Housing Design Quality. The HCA organised the event for their delivery partners to share key findings from their recent QAIV Quality Counts report (Quality Assurance and Impact Visits).
Over the last 4 years, the HCA has been visiting tenants to get an idea of what they think of their homes. The information gathered about what could be improved and what lessons can be learned will inform the affordable homes programme over the next 4 years.
Alongside the other keynote speakers (Richard Baines from Black Country Homes and Architect Glenn Howells), Rob gave a presentation that expanded on a previous piece written for Building Design Magazine’s Housing Blog examining the impact of technology and services on the history of housing. Entitled ‘Scullery Made: Servicing the housing industry’, it proposed a return to a better appreciation of the need for greater storage and its integration with mechanical services.
The remainder of the event was made up of workshop-style discussion sessions. Workshop topics included tenant engagement, sustainability & technology, internal layout quality and external design. We were able to share our experience of sustainable design such as our Passivhaus research, along with the web-based consultation we have carried out on projects such as Hill Top in Warwickshire and the Eco Terrace project in Newcastle under Lyme.