Lyng wins Housing Excellence Awards

Lyng Montage

We congratulate Wendy and all the Lyng Community Association Board on winning the Housing Excellence Award 2014  in the Regeneration Category.

Who would have imagined that all those meetings back in late 2000, those cold and wet evenings, busy weekends workshops and lengthy discussions about the finer points of housing design would be so successful.

Our continued best wishes to all of you and the Lyng residents for sticking with it.

The seeds of Lyng’s rebirth have flowered.

Weston Heights Neighbourhood Regeneration

Weston-Heights-balancing-pond

In January 2004 Axis Design were interviewed by the Coalville Partnership to undertake an Estate Masterplan for the redevelopment of the Coalville Estate, Stoke on Trent. A decade later members of the Coalville Partnership, Stoke-on-Trent Council officers and members, Compendium Living, Coalville Residents Association, Riverside and residents of the redevelopment now named Weston Heights came together on 23rd January to bury a time capsule containing drawings, public consultation papers, school project work, digital records and a few packets of sweets, scheduled to opened, and maybe eaten, in 2064.

Resident chair Ernie Clarke with Mike Menzies of Axis Design
Resident chair Ernie Clarke with Mike Menzies of Axis Design

It was a fitting culmination to our decade long relationship with the project, as we gathered in the new Neighbourhood Park originally conceived by Tony Goodall as he sketched up the first Masterplan ideas over Christmas 2003. Tony, a local lad, was born in Meir about a mile down the River Blythe from the new park which now has a commemorative wall bearing his name and those of other local residents, officers, friends and relatives.

Robert Flello, local MP, gave the regeneration team a ringing endorsement when he said:

“Weston Heights is the most successful regeneration partnership project in Stoke-on-Trent”

Blurton Hub – official opening

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.

Blurton Hub opening

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.

Self Build on a Shoestring

As part of our work to develop new cost effective self-build strategies we recently prepared a submission to the NaSBA Self Build on a Shoestring competition. Although we weren’t successful it was great to see that a number of submissions had proposed a similar concept to ours, exploring the possibilities of single storey housing. The construction proposal is based on what we’ve learnt on one of our current live projects; Rob’s own self-build project called home4self.

We’ll be sharing more about that in the coming weeks, in the meantime here’s our idea for a house costing less than £50k…

*update*: Delighted to find that our proposal was displayed at the Grand Designs Live show as part of the top 16 entries.

£50k house

the 50k house isn’t a design problem, it’s a procurement problem – building a house on a tight budget demands easy to organise packages of work, simple construction and a combination of the best of both on-site and off-site techniques to ensure fixed prices and predictable program – we believe the single storey house has an important role to play in the future of UK housing and is ideally suited to self-build skills…

Single storey, modern methods of construction and easy to manage packages of work.

Our proposal is designed to consider carefully the benefits of combining simple on-site construction processes that could be undertaken by an enthusiastic self-builder alongside the price and performance certainty delivered by off-site prefabrication. We have chosen to explore a single storey house typology. Although this decision brings greater challenges with both the energy performance and ground works, we believe that the benefits to living quality, adaptability and ease of construction make the bungalow a worthwhile investment.

One of the greatest challenges for a self-builder is the day to day management of material delivery, storage and plant and equipment required to control health and safety issues of working at height. Using modern methods of construction we aim to provide a large water tight space quickly that allows the self-builder to proceed in a more easily managed process internally. By overlapping ground floor construction and off-site manufacture the initial program of works can be completed quickly with certainty over fixed prices for the bulk of the superstructure. Items of joinery such as stairs and service walls are intended to be designed and manufactured following a pattern that can be repeated cost effectively using CNC routing technology. The prices stated for the pre-fabricated timber frame also assume a standardised panel size that can be called off by self-builders following a common house type plan. The layout of the design has been developed such that it can be mirrored or handed in various ways to suit orientation without changing the fundamental construction dimensions.

Once the superstructure is complete the interior can be fitted out easily thanks to the efficient arrangement of plumbing and heating layouts that will require minimum labour and material to commission and avoid potential for delays and unforeseen costs thanks to colliding orders of trade.

The central service zone contributes not only to the ease of construction but also the ability to extend easily in future at either end of the building or into the entrance porch, without major alterations to mechanical and electrical layouts. The installation of an MVHR unit in the centre of the plan also reduces complex duct runs and maximises efficiency of performance.

Open plan living places the kitchen at the heart of the house. Our courtyard entrance strategy provides daylight to the centre of the plan and creates a useful external storage area. By completing the roof in pre-insulated panels the higher levels of the pitched roof can be left open above living spaces and enclosed over bedroom areas to provide ample storage.

We believe this is a house that future self-build families could be encouraged to undertake and project manage their own construction when offered a design that is easy to imagine and plan the work required, both in scale and order of trades.

Meon Grove completed

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.

Meon_Grove-flats-entrance

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.

Meon_Grove-flats-street-front

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.

Meon_Grove-flats-corner Meon_Grove-flats-corner-balconies

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)

Greenbuild Awards 2013

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.

BMHT and the Pype Hayes Estate

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.

BMHT – Client of the Year

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

Custom Home Build event

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.

Custom-Home-Build-3

Custom-Home-Build-4

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.

More images can be seen in our flickr gallery.

New Homes at Warren Road, Stoke-on-Trent

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.