To celebrate Sustainability Month, I wanted to share some of my favourite housing developments, those which deftly balance the forces of the client brief, economical design, end-users, energy use, site conditions, planning constraints and aesthetics. In my view, these are models of housing with underlying themes to be replicated on all sites and at all scales.
Futurehome Passivhaus by Maccreanor Lavington
To me, this terrace draws on the best of the past and best of the future. Tried and tested townhouse layouts and proportions that will be familiar to anyone who has ever lived in London are combined with CLT timber-frame construction (reducing embodied energy) and super-insulated, airtight Passivhaus principles (reducing energy demand). Best of all, these don’t look like “Eco Homes”.
Iroko Housing by Haworth Tompkins
This development of 59 homes was completed in 2004. Inherently sustainable by providing dense, affordable housing in a city centre location, the scheme also includes now-established components of environmental design – high insulation values, mechanical ventilation and solar thermal panels. Brick is used to provide robust ‘public’ elevations with timber cladding on the softer ‘private’ facades. Private gardens open onto a large courtyard garden and playspace, meeting the needs of both private and communal amenity and demonstrating the social ambition of Coin Street Community Builders.
Copper Lane by Henley Hale Brown
As one of London’s first co-housing schemes, this project represents an inventive re-purposing of a backland site to create homes which are not only environmentally sustainable, but just as importantly, socially sustainable. Concepts such as shared facilities and amenity spaces, along with user-led design have created housing that is perfectly tailored to its occupants – affordable, sustainable and communal.
Accordia by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Another project which demonstrates that density is not to be feared, Accordia won the Stirling Prize back in 2008 for demonstrating that “volume house-builders can deliver high-quality architecture while improving their bottom line.” The interfaces between public and private, inside and outside, urban and rural, are extremely well considered. Private amenity is provided not only in gardens, but also in terraces on the first and second floors allowing 47 homes per hectare. If we are to meet the recently announced house building targets in the UK, we need to deliver at much greater densities in suitable areas. This project shows how to do it with flair.
Goldsmith Street by Mikhail Riches
No Top 5 Sustainable Housing Projects list would be complete without including Mickhail Riches Stirling-prize winning social housing scheme, Goldsmith Street. Again, incorporating the simple principles of low energy use (Passivhaus), robust design, and dense, socially conscious masterplanning, this project has been heralded as a pioneering benchmark for new social housing. It has demonstrated that sustainable construction is not only affordable, but that anyone still building to Part L minimum requirements is going to be left behind. As gas heating is phased out, poor-performing homes will lose their value over the next few decades in the same vein as non-electric petrol cars. The difference being that houses are much more expensive and much harder to trade in!