Our Blog

March 15th, 2018

A beautiful thing

Models of The Valley, Stanmore. A beautiful thing!

March 15th, 2018

Prior Approval expertise

Snug Architects have built up a wealth of experience in the design and delivery of Prior Approval schemes. The conversion of offices to residential use under permitted development rights is delivering much needed new housing and quickly. It is also repurposing mid twentieth century buildings that are no longer viable as offices. This  approach to housing delivery has its challenges and certainly has its critics but there can be no doubt it is injecting new life into city centres at a pace that cannot be matched b y the new build development industry. It is also bringing forward some of the most low cost housing available. This is in part because it is free from the constraints of minimum space standards. The result is viable margins can be maintained at lower sale prices. Well designed this can provide essential entry level housing to the market.

We have either delivered or are in the process of delivering over 300 Prior Approval units across more than 15 developments. Here are images of two of our most recent projects.






March 15th, 2018

Lets solve the real housing crisis

How long do you think your house was designed to last? Let me put it another way. When do you think your house will be demolished? Houses get replaced when it is cheaper to replace them than it is to maintain them or, put another way, when more money can be made by knocking them down. So when will it be time-up for your home. Consider, would you knock your house down if the roof finish or kitchen needed replacing? Probably not. Like the ship Ergo, all the parts might be slowly replaced but the ship remains. What about when it no longer meets your requirements? No doubt you would move or extend, assuming the banks will still let you borrow against the value of your increasingly tired home. What about if the roof, facade, kitchen, carpets, decoration and heating all needed replacing at the same time? It would not make economic sense at that point, particularly with the VAT. Now you would probably consider knocking it down, or a developer would. We are increasingly doing exactly this with homes built as recently as the 1970’s. This is a problem.

I don’t believe we are currently solving a crisis, I think we are still busy creating one. Let me explain why. The true crisis facing modern housing is this; our houses are not built to last. When speed, cost cutting and skin deep branding define value we won’t create a product that lasts. Why is this a crisis? 

Where I grew up in the Congo, you and your neighbours could build a house over a long weekend. It was a basic mud hut, but it was fit for purpose, cost next to nothing and was cheap to maintain. You might need to build yourself a new house every 15 years but that required very limited resources, so no problem. The cost and rate of production was well below the cost and rate of replacement. In the UK things are very different. For starters our houses are much better quality (or so we like to think) but, our houses take many skilled and less skilled workers over two years to build, once the full development process is taken into account. They also cost around 30% of our lifetime income and take around 30% of our life to pay off. So what you might say. 

Let’s look at the big picture. There are approximately 25M houses in the UK. Each new house requires the work, on an annualised basis, of let’s say 5 people full time to create. If each house lasts a life time that is 25M/100 years = 250,000 houses per year requiring 1.25M people to deliver them or just under 4% of the working population. This all sounds quite reasonable and in line with government targets, assuming our population and demand for houses per head of population stays relatively stable. (A big if) Still no crisis I hear you say. 

Here then comes the crisis. This assumption assumes our houses will last 100 years, like they used to in the good old days before the war. That is a big assumption and not one backed by any evidence. Few houses built since the war will survive that long. Today we build with materials that are often only given a 15-20 year manufacturers warranty. The consequence of this is the economic one I alluded to earlier. All these materials will need to be replaced at the same time. When that time comes, it will, in many cases, make more economic sense to start again. Now this may sound like good news for architects like us who specialise in housing and very good news for our developer clients. But is it sustainable?

I don’t think so, even if it may be economically viable. Let’s revisit those numbers. If we now assume your nice new home will need many of its components replacing in say 40 years and all at the same time you may well be better to rebuild it and I doubt you will be able to sell it to anyone other than a developer. If this is the case we will need to build 25M/40=625,000 houses per year involving 3.125M people or 10% of the working population. Still sounds like good news for those of us in the business of housing. But if it takes 25 years to pay off the mortgage on a house that is no longer fit for purpose, you are in a real pickle. Just as you thought it was time to retire you have to start all over again. Unlike my African friends, this is no small challenge. To make matters worse, we all know that this many houses can’t be delivered every year and, if that much labour was required, the cost of building a house would be so high it would be economically unviable. Even if you wanted to, you would not be able to rebuild your house. The consequence is, you would be homeless. Here is the true crisis; Many of us will be homeless in 40 years! 

Before we all break out in blind panic. What can be done? 

To solve this crisis we must build houses that last, at least a life time. It is a mathematical certainty that to do otherwise is a crisis guaranteed. To solve a crisis you need to know the true source of the problem. Our problem is the same as it has always been; Venustas, Commoditas, Firmitas. We must build houses that last. This means houses that are cost effective to maintain, able to be adapted to changing circumstances and that are loved. Then people will care for and maintain them. Sustainability is the ability to maintain. We must create houses that are easy and cost effective for people to maintain. Only then will we ensure our houses last at least one life time and hopefully longer.

At Snug we are currently repurposing a lot of offices though office to residential conversion. This may double the life of those buildings. They may even make it to their 100th birthday. This is part of the solution but it does not solve the crisis. It is suburban housing that we must tackle. Legislators, planners, designers, lenders and developers must work together to establish a viable approach to the delivery of houses that are built to last. Heaven help us if we don’t. 





There is much we can learn from our past. In the industrial revolution we built both the good and the bad. The good is still with us, places like the Lever Brothers workers housing at Port Sunlight. These were places built generously. They have lasted over 100 years and continue to grow in value. Many others at their time built what quickly became slums. They barely lasted half a life time.

The act of building houses, must become more than a short term economic activity. It must become a generous act and an investment in our collective future. It is more national infrastructure than asset class. If we can’t expect this through developers own inclinations we must make it in their interest. Those who deliver houses must have ownership of the future. If every developer was liable for say 49% of the maintenance and received 49% of the value from a house over its lifetime there would no doubt be a change in the quality of the houses delivered. We have found it is always the case that those clients who retain some measure of ownership invest in quality. We need those who create to have ownership of the consequences. Then they will take responsibility and generosity will become self interest. The Lever Brothers where no fools. They new that we reap what we sow. Because they believed this, they built to last.

This approach is high cost but long life. There is of course an alternative, we pursue the low cost short life approach of my African friends. This is the other side of the same coin. It is more intense and results in a far higher replacement rate. It is certainly an option but we are not convinced this is something our current approach to planning can cope with. We have of course been here before. In the post wart housing crisis pre-fab housing saved the day. They may not have been designed to last but of course may have long outlived their design life through tender love and care.

Arcon MK V Pre-fab from 1946.

Whichever approach we take we need to focus on solving the real crisis. We clearly aren’t building enough houses and we aren’t building to last. As a result we are building well below the rate of replacement and this is a crisis in the making.

The real crisis is we are still busy creating a crisis. We are neither building enough houses or building above the viable replacement rate. These are the challenges we must focus on trying to solve.

March 11th, 2018

Snug wins a Civic Trust Award

We are delighted to have been awarded a Civic Trust Award @CTAwards #CTA2018 for our Milford-on-Sea Beach Huts and Public Realm Improvements. The Civic Trust Awards were launched in 1959 and are the oldest architectural and built environment awards scheme in Europe, committed to ‘recognising the best in the built environment.’ 

It is a great moment for us and we are humbled to be one of only thirteen UK award winners. A huge thank you to Ryan Bond, the project architect and our design partners, Ramboll. This sort of project would not be possible without a great client and we want to thank New Forest District Council for believing in us and our ideas. It was not always easy. Knights Brown, the contractors, were also excellent and a pleasure to work with.

What was of note at this years ceremony was the strength of architectural talent now residing in Hampshire. No less than two awards and one commendation went to Hampshire firms; Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt, Design Engine and Snug. An achievement our region should rightly be very satisfied with.

A final surprise for us was to discover our project was on the front page of the awards publication!

February 15th, 2018

Helping clients is helping us!

Snug’s founding director, Paul Bulkeley, has been interviewed for a fascinating article by the Royal Institute of British Architects on architects fees and how these can better align with client priorities. See the link below to the article:




January 19th, 2018

The Wall takes a major step forward

We received good news this week from the team at The Wall of Answered Prayer, @thewall2020, an International RIBA Competition where we have been shortlisted to the last four. Their press release says; ‘We are delighted to announce that The Wall has been given a plot of land for the project.  Over the next few months we will be continuing meetings with politicians and local churches before our announcement in June. The reason we are not announcing the location before then is because we need to undergo due diligence with the land, undertaking archaeological and geological surveys to eliminate any potential issues that we may have overlooked. It’s an amazing story of how God has connected us with the landowner which we will share in due course. As you can imagine, we are absolutely thrilled and in awe of God’s goodness!’

It is great to see the project making progress and we look forward to working with them to develop our design later this year. More information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/TheWallofAnsweredPrayer/

January 3rd, 2018

Milford Beach Huts survive their first proper test

#StormEleanor battered the country last night and this morning we awoke to the result. Here are some photographs of our inhabited sea defences at Milford-on-sea following the storm. They clearly took a serious pounding but did exactly what they were designed to do. They survived. No reported injuries! Just a serious amount of shingle to be cleared away.


Storm_Milford 180103


December 22nd, 2017

2017 Review

Here are some highlights of 2017.

Down to the last four in the international competition for The Wall of Answered Prayer


The Valley received planning permission.

Woodlands shortlisted for the RIBA Regional Awards.

Planning permission won at appeal for 24 apartments in the New Forest National Park.

Milford-on-sea beach huts completed.

Our Milford-on-sea beach huts wins the first of seven awards/shortlistings!

Finalist for Best Architectural Practice at the South Coast Property Awards.

The Central Winchester SPD gets council approval. It was a pleasure to collaborate with JTP on this and a number of other projects this year.

Selected as one on nine RIBA role model practices.

Lovely office day our visiting some of our completed projects with the team.

Thank you to all our staff and clients for another good year. Happy Christmas to you all and a prosperous New Year.


December 21st, 2017

Snug on longlist for RIBA MacEwen Awards 2018


We are over the moon to have been longlisted for the @RIBAJ #MacEwenAwards2018. This is one of those awards that really does mean a lot to us and it is great to be down to the last 24. What a lovely way to end the year.


The MacEwen Awards celebrate ‘architecture for the common good’, something that aligns with our values. The other long listed entries can be found at: https://www.ribaj.com/macewen-2018

December 14th, 2017

Snug are ‘winners’ at the Civic Trust Awards

We are delighted to hear that we will be one of 45 winners at the 59th Civic Trust Awards.

We heard today that our Milford-on-sea beach huts where selected as one of only 45 National/International Winners from 234 applications and will receive either an Award or Commendation. The level of our project’s success will be revealed at the 59th Annual Civic Trust Awards Ceremony, which will be held at the iconic venue of Old Trafford, home of Manchester United on the 9th March 2018. @CTAwards @CTAConservation @UnivDesignAward