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.
From its origins in the Indian sub-continent through the British Raj to post war coastal development and urban fringe sprawl, the bungalow has a contradictory, almost schizophrenic, existence in Britain. On the one hand, reviled in the UK press as early as the twenties as ‘bungaloid’ sprawl but on the other hand, consistently voted as the public’s’ most aspirational housetype, in one survey after another. Bungalows built in the late Victorian / Edwardian period were not restricted to coastal resorts and ribbon development, many were an integral part of the utopian neighbourhoods of social reformers aiming to improve the living conditions of the urban working class.
More recently single storey homes have been relegated to holiday lodges sited within countryside parks or to the fading memories of the good old post-war prefab, an imported MMC product which survived its design life by a factor of four, and also outlived its debt redemption by decades. Wouldn’t that be a novelty in social housing.
Ageing home occupiers, reluctant to move, fearful about service costs, anxious about having enough room for a lifetime of stuff, unsure about pets and cranking up the volume on their vinyl collections, beware. As things stand, you cannot have what you want and must get used to it and learn to love the alternatives, supposedly higher density schemes with equally high service costs marketed in numerous cosy metaphors for village life in your later years.
Today single storey housing appears to have little to offer in the current housing crisis, being seen as low density, land grabbing, unstylish and comparatively expensive.
However, bungalows can readily be developed at around 40 – 50 plots/hectare, a figure common in suburban housing with front gardens providing parking and an external front to back access with a rear garden governed by the 70ft privacy spacing rule (although it started life as a sunlight/ health rule of thumb) so beloved of planning officers. With the right range of rectangular and patio floorplates, single storey housing developed in courtyard, mews style and stepped formats can be more efficient on many sites, where you can increase numbers over a layout of standard two storey housetypes.
Turning to the construction cost issue the common response is that the ratio of foundation length combined with roof/external wall to enclosed area is far from the cuboid ideal, (but no flat roof please). However single storey construction releases the designer from the Lifetime Homes strictures of upper floor accessibility, supporting an upper floor, two layer services distribution and conventional footings. It can also speed up the delivery of homes with, pre-fabrication, reduced height working, lower scaffolding/ lifting equipment costs, single panel lift and reduced preliminaries.
It has for many of these reasons been a favourite with the self-build / custom home markets, common in early housing pre-fabrication case studies and the dominant type in the post war expansion of the Commonwealth and the American West Coast.
The Californian bungalow, as it became known, reached its most innovative in the mid-century modernist, prefabricated, steel/timber post & beam, pile founded, low pitch/butterfly roofed, polished concrete 100sm floorplates, built in the thousands by developers like Eichler, the Alexander family & Meiselman brothers working in San Francisco, LA and Palm Springs. These low cost, middle income tract homes featured ,many of the domestic features taken for granted today: open plan living space, central heating/cooling, island kitchens, built in kitchen units, floor to ceiling glass, decorative blockwork, sliding external and internal doors, glazed atria and carports.
As we confront the ageing population crisis, can we not shed our net curtain/ paper doilies and cream tea preconceptions about bungalows and rediscover single storey houses which are chic, cool and suited to the downsizing ‘Woodstock/Isle of Wight’ generation.
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.
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”
Mike considers the reality of space standard minimums and examples of UK housing:
Recent debate about the value of delivering smaller houses, with or without government subsidy, reignites the professions enduring interest in existenzminimum, the minimum habitable area in support of subsistence life. Internationally much debated within CIAM & Demos throughout the early to mid-twentieth century and often described as the house for the proletariat. The resultant decades of dialogue, research and the construction of numerous prototypical pods, insights from physiology, psychology, sociology, biology, ergonomics and engineering were garnered in support of the search for the answer.
So what is the minimum area necessary to support contemporary living: a bedspace, a bedspace + clothes rail, a bed/clothes + sitting space, bed/sitting space + cooking corner + toilet, all of the above + space saver shower? Not convinced or still undecided then…
Let’s sprinkle each with a modest social life, a (very) compact hobby or two (no pets please) and occasionally languish in a bath and you have got yourself beyond the touring caravan, converted garage, yuppy yurt, glamping trailer tent, bijou box, chic shed or my(i)pad.
The problem with existenzminimum is that most of us don’t really relish subsistence living, let alone being described as a proletarian. We surely don’t aspire to it, certainly not on a market rent or 25 year repayment mortgage. It is by its very nature a transient state which you wish to move beyond, as quickly as the property market and income will allow.
While pondering the question we quite naturally expect to put our feet up, reach into the fridge for a chilled beer/wine and prepare (maybe even cook) and consume a basic meal for one/two. From the confines of our living pod a network of space consuming relationships develop, with the outside world, not surprisingly since we have so little of the inside world to deal with. We use personal transport to work/leisure, we eat drink outdoors, we deal with laundry, we visit long suffering friends (if only for a bath and to use their dryer), we grow stuff, we keep pets, we order takeaways, order stuff (small stuff) from Amazon sometimes to display trophies suggesting we ‘have arrived’ and yet yearn for that combination of personal solitude and psychological centredness summed up in ‘my space- keep out’.
So where does this get us? Certainly beyond that rash of urban hutches which regularly appear on the UK market in a blaze of incentives for first time buyers craving the new urban lifestyle. On reflection anything heading much below 50 sq m is a strait jacket where living goes out the window (if you have one) and existenzminimum arrives. If you are still undecided have a look at the diagram which overlays to scale a number of living enclosures, there may be space for us all here.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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’re delighted to report that along with our team of sub-consultants, we have been successful in a competitive tender for Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s first Custom Home Building project. The former Penkhull Farm site on Newcastle Lane in Stoke-on-Trent has been chosen by Stoke City Council and the design team led by Axis Design will be carrying out an initial site appraisal and submitting an outline planning application.
The outline application proposals will be designed to provide guidance to future investors regarding the key principles of the site and must acknowledge the need to create low energy homes. Our recent work around the Affordable Passivhaus project led us to develop house type models that deliver the highest level of energy performance at low cost. We hope there will be an opportunity to incorporate our PassivHaus research into this project.
In our experience the most successful housing developments are those created through a collaborative approach. As such, the Custom Home Building project will be supported in its delivery through the use of our web-based project management system to improve liaison with all stakeholders. In addition, we will be including the use of BIM as part of our service on this project.
A little more about Custom Home Building in Stoke….
The Government published their Housing Strategy paper in November 2011, and are proposing to offer financial support for self-build developments, referred to as ‘Custom Home Building’. Through this paper (pdf of ‘Laying The Foundations’), councils are being asked to assess the demand for custom-build in their area and take positive steps to facilitate it.
Stoke City Council recently launched their Mandate for Change, setting out a clear plan to make Stoke-on-Trent a great city to live in and in support of this, there is a proposal to promote Custom Home Building to assist in improving housing quality across the city. The council are hosting a Housing Summit later in 2012 and this project will be used at the event to publicise Custom Home Building to local residents and potential partners.
“It is recognised that Custom Home Building can make a stronger contribution to economic growth and a significant contribution to the number of new homes built…. In the case of Stoke, there is a desire to attract wealth creators to the city, as part of a wider regeneration programme.”