One of the most enjoyable aspects of our work in community projects is getting to know the neighbourhood we’re working in over a long period of time and being able to see a project through from start to finish. Blurton in Stoke on Trent is one such project that we’ve had the privilege of being a part of and last week we attended the official opening event for the new Blurton Hub community building, alongside the new housing and retail which is now complete.
A project like this has involved many people and organisations over many years, not least of which is the Blurton Farm Resident Association we first met during our initial masterplanning consultation many years ago. Their dedication has been central to the success of the project and we’re looking forward to keeping in touch in the coming months to help them manage their new building and its green technology.
Here’s Christine Pratt, the resident group leader, quoted in the local press about the opening:
“This is a vision that we have had for over 15 years so it is fantastic to see it completed. The hub and new homes are already having a massive impact and making changes to people’s lives.”
Congratulations to Christine and her colleagues and best wishes for the future of the new facility at the heart of Blurton’s community.
Our latest completed project for Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is looking great in the sunshine. The final phase of flats has now been occupied alongside the houses that were handed over a few months ago and this morning we’ve been out in Garretts Green to take a few photos.
Garretts Green, begun in 1939 and completed in 1960, was to developed to rehouse people from inner-city slum dwellings and many of its public buildings shared features of municipal modernism often dubbed ‘moderne’ because of its streamlined and Art Deco motifs.
Meon Grove, a development of 18 flats and 13 family houses, takes its lead from this and in its prominent position, provides a significant new landmark in the area. The three storey flats are an unusual triangular arrangement around common staircases, embracing the two retained trees at each corner with parking/storage underneath.
Their style reinterprets 30’s moderne, a deliberate attempt to lighten the rather heavy post-war municipal housing by alluding to inter-war modernist flats in Europe and America’s west coast, particularly those by Schindler & Neutra.
The composition of brick base with render panels, carefully composed windows and balconies serve to give the flats an urbane quality, as opposed to being enlarged versions of two storey houses. The new housing is closely related in material and window treatments with box bay windows used as visual markers on corners and threshold gables.
Thanks to the whole team for their work on the project, we’ve enjoyed collaborating with Jessup Brothers, Capita, Stewart & Harris and BCC. The success of BMHT continues and this was also recognised again last night with an RTPI award for planning excellence.
(the design process was also featured in a past blog post about our use of BIM and BMHT)
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?
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.
There’s more information over here on WMCCE’s website: http://www.wmcce.org/awards/2012_client_of_the_year_winner.html
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.
More photos of the Warren Road scheme can be found over on our Flickr photostream.
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.
Care of Podnosh, have a listen to Brandwood End Resident’s Group Chairman, Steve Walters, and other residents talk about the history of the Brandwood End housing project in Kings Heath, Birmingham: