Archive for the ‘Vision’ Category

Revealing the Sub\Urbia House – A super dense prototype terraced house

Monday, July 9th, 2018

At Snug we are always actively seeking to develop and refine new housing typologies that will help to solve the #housing #housingcrisis. As a company, our mission is to ‘create great places and prosper people’. This year we  have developed a new prototype high density terraced house. We decided to submit it to @BritHomesAwards Sunday Times readers’ choice home competition. It didn’t exactly fit the brief and so, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it was not shortlisted. In our humble opinion the concept remains a thoroughly ground breaking approach to high density terraced housing. Now that the competition is over we are pleased to be able to reveal the design.

The Sub\Urbia House.

In summary, the Sub\Urbia House delivers high density housing at over 100dph without forfeiting the much loved character of suburbia. Our aim is to create a single house type that contains all steps in the housing ladder. High density homes where all ages, including families, would love to live.

Sub\

\Urbia

 

The Design Philosophy

We wish to live at low density but we must build at high density if we are to solve the housing crisis. To do this we need to build at urban densities in excess of 75dph. The problem is, British people don’t generally like living at higher densities. We love our houses and we love having a home with its own front door. The Sub\Urbia House squares this circle.

The proposal has the appearance and feel of the suburban places British people love, but at a density well in excess of 75dph. The Sub\Urbia House delivers 100dph without compromising any of the things we love about suburbia.

The key idea – We live between walls. The traditional terrace has party walls side to side. The Sub\Urbia House has both side and rear party walls. This unlocks the potential for an increased density and, as a result, it creates a two faced typology. One face, providing a pair of three bedroom family townhouses faces the more generous public realm, akin to places like Accordia and creates a modern suburbia. The other face provides a one bed city pad and 2no. two bedroom duplex units facing onto a more urban street. The result is a whole new urban condition, what we are calling urbia.

 

Our intention is to create the ultimate mixed tenure neighbourhood. Each 10m x 20m component contains 1 one bed, 2 two beds and 2 three bed homes. Five homes are provided within the plot. In this one typology we provide for the whole housing ladder to live. This results in the ultimate sustainable community where entry level flats coexist with aspirational family homes. Sub\Urbia would be the kind of place everyone would love to call home.

In addition to providing every size of home needed to climb the housing ladder the Sub\Urbia House provides plenty of proportionate outside amenity spaces, well related to living accommodation and daylight. The idea is both simple and sophisticated. The Sub\Urbia House takes a traditional Georgian townhouse and mews, retains the front garden and hedge, pulls back and stacks the mews, lifts the rear garden to the roof and pumps up the density.

The Sub\ House is a three bed family home that comes with a generous roof garden, dual aspect living room and private balconies off the bedrooms. This includes front garden located off the master bedroom, efficiently located above, and sheltering, the bin and bike store to form a covered porch.

The Sub\ House comes in two configurations. It can either be a generous family home with ground floor kitchen diner off a secure parking court/play space with generous living room and roof garden on the top floor or, alternatively, it can provide a live/work home with a ground floor studio space and top floor kitchen/dining/living space.

The \Urbia homes are provided with a generous balcony to each unit which overlook the street and evoke a multi-level sense of inhabitation prevalent to an urban street scene.

\Urbia is a ground floor entry level city pad, our fastest selling typology, with its private covered balcony/porch. Adjacent to this is the entrance to a pair of two bed duplex units. Alongside is a secure bin/bike store and electric carshare garage.

Urbia\ is about starting out and moving up the housing ladder. It is cost effective, efficient, urban. Sub\ is about settling down. It is elegant, stylish, spacious and sylvan. Together, both sides of the Sub\Urbia House create the perfect neighborhood.

As an urban layout it is flexible and can create multiple combinations of streets and squares. The intention is for every neighbourhood to be Sub\Urbia.

This is a concept that builds upon the nation’s innovative history of dwelling. So many variations of terraces exist, be it a Scottish tenement, a Tyneside flat, a Yorkshire back to back, a Mansion and Mews in London or a post war duplex. Sub/Urbia intends to evoke in some way all these typologies as inspiration for a new way of living that seeks to solve the housing crisis. It is high density land use without the high density character!

Construction

This is intended to be a mass produced typology that can be delivered by the traditional British construction industry as well as more innovative developers, willing to trail modern methods of construction. It is important to note that most domestic scale buildings, built between stacking party walls, can be built using any and all forms of construction.  The right choice is a matter of procurement and supply chains.

Depending on the number of units being commissioned the design is intended to be constructed either using off site  fabrication or, if volumes are low, using traditional forms of construction. Importantly this is not a frame building and it can be constructed using standard lintels and traditional materials. We are passionate about building houses that last. Speed of construction must not trump long life.

The superstructure for the first three floors is proposed as CLT and the primary façade material is brick slips, allowing speed/off site fabrication. It could just as easily be masonry and brick or blockwork and render.  More distinctive materials are then proposed for the expressive top floor living rooms and inset balconies. These are illustrated as zinc but could be timber or fibre cement panels. Our current cladding of choice is burnt larch. It is beautiful and does not require maintenance.

Internally the house provides efficient modern living with positive inside/outside connections, despite the single aspect configuration. The top floor living room is a delight. Lofty, dual aspect onto private amenity space and enjoying a wood bring stove. This is everyone’s dream garden room but up on the roof.

To find out more about this highly innovative house type please call the office. It is a highly versatile concept that could be applied or adapted to almost any modern housing development.

 

KEY PROJECT DATA

 Floor Areas:

3 bed townhouse – 113m2

2 bed duplex – 64.6 and 70.2m2

1 bed city pad – 40.3m2

GIA – 455.5m2 per 200m2 plot.

NIA – 401.1m2 per 200m2 plot providing over 200% land utilization.

 

Build costs:

Component cost – £730,125

Total build cost for 20 units – £2,920,500 (excludes economies of scale)

Average unit cost – £146,000/unit

Construction cost – £1,603/m2

 

Density:

Plot Density – 250 dwellings per hectare within the plot or 550 bedrooms/hectare

Place Density – 100 dwelling per hectare once roads and communal landscape accounted for or 220 bedrooms/hectare

 

The Exhibition Boards:

The Sunday Times Readers’ Choice Award_P869_4xA3 Presentation

Please to be published in @RIBAJ

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

We were pleased to see an article on the housing crisis written by our founding director, Paul Bulkeley, published in this months RIBA Journal. The article raises serious issues that we hope both the industry and government will consider carefully. @RIBAJ

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

Great new video of our Milford Beach Huts:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1X1rN2aacE

 

The Ring Of Remembrance

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

After ​​two days visiting the battle fields of the Somme, a visit to The Ring Of Remembrance, International WWI Memorial Of Notre-Dame-De-Lorette, is all the more poignant. This is a powerful memorial to the sacrifice of life made in the Great War. The structure is designed by Agence D’architecture Philippe Prost (AAPP) on behalf of the Conseil Regional Nord-Pas-De-Calais and won the RIBA Award for International Excellence in 2016.

For me this was not only a personal journey of discovery, visiting the battlefield where my great grandfather gave his life 100 years ago this month, it was also an opportunity to study the architecture of remembrance. The majority of the monuments we visited where built in the years immediately after the war and all are of their era. Always monumental, and often neo-classical in design. It was therefore interesting to see how my own generation of architects has sought to contribute.

Unlike most war memorials, where one moves around the monument, the names of the dead lining the outer walls, this structure draws you in, the names enclosing, wrapping and immersing you on all sides. It is a dramatic contrast.  Everything external drops away. There is only the visitor and the 600,000+ names that enclose them.

The only relief to this is the dramatic moment when the ring cantilevers out and across a natural drop in the topography. This opens up glimpses of the battlefields beyond in the plains below. This moment leads to my only criticism. It is the entrance. It feels overly pragmatic that the entrance cuts through the sides of the ring, breaking the purity of the enclosure. It would surely have been more powerful to enter from below, from the ground, where the battle was fought. Entering under the ring one could then emerge fully enclosed and at the centre rather than at a specific point, with the inevitable hierarchy that this creates.

None of this diminishes the beauty, simplicity and power of the Ring of Remembrance. These are only the thoughts of an architect seeking to learn and, when the opportunity arises, try to achieve something greater still.

 

 

Lets solve the real housing crisis

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

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 this, 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 added on top. Now you might well consider knocking it down, or a developer certainly would. The only thing stopping you would be how much you love your old house. We are seeing homes built as recently as the 1970’s being replaced. This is potentially a big problem.

Our concern is that we are not currently solving a crisis, we think we may still be busy creating one. Let us 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 #housingcrisis ? 

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 rate of production easily kept up with the 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 also 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 England. Since the 1950’s we have been adding around 220,000 houses to the housing stock annually and in 2016/17 we build 227,000, including 37,000 conversions, largely under permitted development. House building peaked at 350,000 homes annually in the mid 1930’s and 1960’s. This is the past but how many houses do we need to build in the future?

Dr Alan Holman’s research at Cambridge University suggests that we need 240,000 houses each year to meet the increasing number of new households. Critically, this figure excludes any reductions in the housing stock.  How many additional houses might we need to built to exceed the replacement rate? There is very limited data and no apparent consensus on the rate of replacement. In the past, during times of slum clearance it has been as high as 100,000/year. Records suggest that around 21,000 houses where removed from the housing stock annually in the 1980’s and since 2006/07 this has been steadily falling from 22,000 down to just under 10,000 in 2016/17. This would, on the surface, look to be good news but, with replacement rates so low few people seem to be focusing on the need to consider what affect replacing houses will have on targets. The  vast majority of our housing stock is still relatively young, with around 50% built in the past 50 years. Saltford Manor is the oldest house in Britain, which dates from the 11th Century, but this is clearly a rarity. What history shows is that many houses don’t last anywhere near this long!  What then should be the assumed rate of replacement?

The current rate of 10,000 houses being demolished annually would suggest a replacement rate of 0.04%. On this basis it would take 2500 years to replace all of our current housing stock. I doubt many architects, let alone their developer clients have this duration in mind when they are asked to sign up to 12 years liability! Clearly modern houses are not built to last this long. What then might be a more reasonable assumption looking forward and what are the consequences?

Currently around 21% of the housing stock was built pre 1919 and around just over half between then and the mid 1960’s. This means that over 75% of the housing stock is well over 50 years old and would suggest that a good number of houses will live well over 100 years. On the surface this shows just how long houses can last. These of course are the houses that survived. What is less clear is how many didn’t make it. Almost all of this existing housing stock is masonry construction and those that have survived were built to last. Those that weren’t have of course already been demolished.

Our concern is that we are today concerned more with speed than lifespan. Historic rates of replacement are a poor guide to the future. In Britain we love our period properties and, as a result we care for them and they last. The problem comes when we don’t love our houses. Sadly it seems we don’t love late 20th Century houses as much. It is of note that most demolitions today are of buildings built since the war. The simple truth is this; when we don’t love where we live its life expectancy drops dramatically. It seems to us that the rate of replacement, like almost everything else in modern society, is accelerating. We would not go so far as to accuse the construction industry of designed obsolescence but, there is no doubt that modern methods of construction do not come with 2,500 year warranties!

Today we build with materials that are often only given a 15-20 year manufacturer’s warranty. The consequence of this is the economic one we alluded to earlier. All these materials will need to be replaced at approximately the same time. When that time comes, it will, in many cases, make more economic sense to start again. Not least if there is a shortage of land and little or no love for the house itself. 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?

We don’t think so, even if it were economically viable. The challenge is that the vast majority of our current housing stock was build post war. It seems to us that the 15M homes built since the war are less loved and less robust than the pre-war, predominantly masonry houses that have already survived the test of time. Even if we assume the majority of our post war housing stock were built robustly, it would seem likely that these houses will start to need replacing at a higher rate than is currently being assumed. How then might we establish an appropriate replacement rate?

If, instead of assuming our houses will last for 2500 years we instead assume this to be a more realistic 200 years, the rate of replacement increases to 0.5%. This would require an additional 125,000 houses to be added to the housing target. This is half again on top of current projections. Our fear is it is more nuanced and somewhat worse than this. In our view most houses built since the war will be lucky to survive 100 years. This is primarily because, unlike their pre-war cousins, they are by and large unloved and uneconomical to alter or maintain. If this is the case we could have a 1% replacement rate on the 15M houses built since the war, in addition to the 0.5% rate for the 10M built before. This would require 200,000 houses annually in addition to the 240,000 needed for new households. This total of 440,000 houses is double current targets. This would seem bad enough but sadly this is still not the true measure of the crisis.

What if, in addition to this, it turns that today we building with even shorter lifespans in  mind.  Modern houses are built in an age of designed obsolescence and with fast construction rather than long life as the goal.  When all those warranties expire and modern houses need many of their essential components replacing, and all at the same time, one may well find that all these snazzy new homes might be more economical to replace. Not least with VAT chargeable on refurbishment work! If this is the case we might find ourselves needing to rebuild a far higher proportions of our new housing stock and within as little as 40 years. On this basis we could be required to build as many as 625,000 houses per year just to maintain the housing stock. This is an unsustainable legacy to leave to future generations.

Here then is the true crisis; Our rush to build houses quickly is in danger of creating a scenario where houses are needing replacing faster than we can build them. This will result in a significant number of households becoming homeless. At current rates of construction and on the basis of these projections some 400,000 households a year could be homeless by 2060. Now that is a real crisis.

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 and most importantly build above the true rate of replacement. 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; Firmitas, Commoditas, Venustas. This means houses that are cost effective to maintain, able to be adapted to changing circumstances and that are loved. In summary, houses that are built to last and above all, houses that are loved.

Sustainability is the ability to maintain. We must create houses that are easy and cost effective for people to maintain, delaying their replacement. Only then will we ensure our houses last at least one life time and hopefully longer.

What then are some of the solutions? 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.

Before

After

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 well over 100 years and continue to grow in value, showing no sign of needing replacing. 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; more national infrastructure than asset class. Perhaps we should even be receiving tax breaks for maintaining our homes.

If we can’t expect this through developers own inclinations we must make it in their interest. If those who deliver houses had ownership of the future things might be different. We have found it is always the case that those clients who retain some measure of ownership invest more 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 knew that we reap what we sow. Because they believed this, they built to last and built places that people have loved.

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, drawn out and highly contested approach to planning, can cope with. We have of course been here before. In the post war housing crisis pre-fab housing saved the day. They may not have been designed to last but of course many 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. By all means lets build fast, we certainly need to build more but, above all, lets build houses that people will love. This above all things will delay their replacement. Perhaps the best example of this is the Great Mosque of Djenne. The current mosque was built in 1907 and despite being made of mud remains in good order. The reason is, it is well loved by the local community. While it is loved, it will last.

We clearly aren’t building enough houses and because we aren’t building either to love or to last there is a real danger that we are building well below the rate of replacement. This is a crisis in the making, a crisis we are still busy creating.

To solve the crisis we must focus on the source; we are neither building enough houses or building above the sustainable replacement rate. Our current focus is almost exclusively on building enough houses to meet growing household numbers. Few if any housing targets are accounting for the rate of replacement. It is this challenge we believe our industry must now focus on trying to solve.

Helping clients is helping us!

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

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:

https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/help-your-client-to-help-yourself

 

 

Highly Commended at The Concrete Society Awards 2017

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We were delighted that our project for the Milford-on-sea Beach Huts was highly commended at the Concrete Society Awards 2017. We came runner up to the Forth Replacement Crossing road bridge! Other shortlisted projects included work by some great architects, including Fosters and projects that included the V&A Museum of Design, Dundee. It was a privilege to stand out in such a high class line up. The winning projects are featured in the December copy of Concrete @ukConcrete.

The section on our project is shown below.

Bangladesh Government Delegation visit to Milford-on-sea Beach Huts

Friday, October 6th, 2017

New Forest District Council and Snug Architects hosted a delegation of visitors from Bangladesh today (Friday 6 October 2017) interested in UK coastal defence measures.

Representatives from the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) met with representatives from the council and Snug Architects, who designed the beach huts, to hear how the council is taking a holistic approach to coastal sea defence.

The twelve visitors then went on to see the recently-completed beach huts at Milford-on-Sea as part of the senior officials’ visit to the UK, Holland and Germany to look at examples of coastal engineering, infrastructure development, and emergency management.

Bangladesh has a difficult coastline with many rivers and distributaries which are often affected by natural hazards such as cyclones, coastal flooding and tidal surges. The Bangladesh government believes that by focusing on these key areas, the country will better be able to cope with the extreme flooding which at times covers 26,000kms of the country.

The visit to the Milford-on-sea beach huts was to see how they have been designed and built as inhabited infrastructure  able to both withstand severe coastal weather and provide for various types of value added inhabitation. It is hoped this will help when designing this type of infrastructure upon the officials’ return to Bangladesh.

Steve Cook, Coastal manager at NFDC said, “We are extremely proud of the beach huts, which had to be rebuilt due to severe weather damage which destroyed the huts that were here in 2014.  Working with the architects we have built the replacement huts so that they can withstand a 1:200 year storm event.”

The project demonstrates that through creative engagement between funders, authorities and their design teams, significant added value can be achieved when delivering essential infrastructure. The project, although small in scale, represents some big ideas. Our hope is that it will inspire others to take a similar approach elsewhere. Perhaps and not least in Bangladesh.

We are an RIBA Role Model Practice

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

The Royal Institute of British Architects @RIBA has selected Snug Architects as one of only nine practices to be a #RIBArolemodelpractice for the profession.

The Practice Role Models, published on the RIBA’s website architecture.com, were selected to show different characteristics of a role model organisation; and to encourage debate about what it means to be a successful RIBA Chartered Practice.

This is the web link to the page; https://www.architecture.com/campaign/practice-role-models

Paul Bulkeley, Director of Snug Architects says of his practice’s inclusion; “we are very pleased to have been selected. We are passionate about both the quality of our work and our culture. It is satisfying to have our achievements recognised by our peers. We hope to use this opportunity to continue to champion best practice in the industry.”

Snug was founded in 2003 by Paul and moved from its original base in Winchester to Rumbridge Street, Totton last year. The practice’s work ranges from the new beach huts at Milford-on-Sea to Winchester’s largest affordable housing scheme at The Valley in Stanmore, which won planning permission in July.

Snug’s 14 staff love what they do and in addition to working hard they share coffee breaks and Friday lunches, as well as visit inspirational buildings and generally have fun as a team. Once a year, they all go away together, with their families, as a treat on the company. The practice also allocates 10 per cent of its profits to charitable causes, which are selected by the staff.

The RIBA identified nine characteristics of Practice Role Models, including having a clear social purpose, being client/stakeholder focused and having a pioneering attitude. The characteristics are listed here https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/resources-landing-page/practice-role-model-characteristics

Paul stated; “We believe architects need to be as innovative about the way they do business as they are about design. Only then can we run successful businesses that effectively serve our clients in a fast changing industry. Snug has always been entrepreneurial, willing to challenge established ways of thinking, and our clients benefit from this. We hope to facilitate wider discussion about how the interests of the profession, and those of our clients, can be better aligned for mutual benefit.”

Our page can be viewed at;

https://www.architecture.com/campaign/practice-role-models/snug

 

Central Winchester SPD goes live

Friday, July 14th, 2017

We are proud to announce that the vision for the central Winchester masterplan has now been presented to the public.

Working with JTP Architects and involving extensive public engagement we have developed a vision for a pedestrian friendly quarter in central Winchester. This includes:

  • a new mixed-use quarter, including retail, market, commercial, cultural, housing and community uses to complement the city centre and serve the whole community
  • plans for attractive buildings, streets and places, designed and laid out with a Winchester character and scale – described as “Winchesterness”.
  • a range of active and restful spaces in the heart of the city, including the opening up of the brook to the east of the site
  • developing a footprint for the way the public realm will be developed across the whole area
  • creating a new bus hub and routing buses away from The Broadway and High Street to allow for environmental improvements to accommodate markets and other street based activities.

These proposals will now inform the development of a Supplementary Planning Document for the future development of the site.

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