Archive for the ‘Vision’ Category

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, 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.

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:



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, 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;

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

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;


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.

Milford-on-Sea Beach Huts ready for occupation

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
Milford-on-Sea Beach Huts and Public Realm Improvements 
The Milford-on-Sea Beach Huts and Public Realm Improvements at have now been completed.
After the original terrace of beach huts were severely damaged in a huge storm on Valentine’s Day 2014, New Forest District Council agreed to replace the 119 beach huts and, following our involvement, took the decision to use the opportunity to improve Milford’s seafront for residents and visitors.
The brief was to design identical replacement huts that could withstand a 1:200 year storm event. Critical constraints were; there could be no increase in the height or change to the location of the huts. Through engagement with the public and a public exhibition, attended by over 600 local residents, we were able to establish support for significant enhancements to the project. The most significant was moving the promenade onto the roof. This has opened up a whole new waterfront experience, visitors now able to enjoy uninterrupted views  of the coastline and the Needles. This increase in the area of upper prom then allowed us to move the beach huts further back, away from the sea, reducing their exposure, widening the lower prom and increasing the space available for beach hut owners.
The new huts are very robust, constructed of concrete c-sections with precast graphic concrete front panels and marine ply doors. The beach hut owners were presented with a carefully selected pallet of colours to choose from for their new doors. Our objective was to achieve vibrant highlights of yellow and pink against a predominantly blue back drop. The challenge was how to achieve this whilst having no control over peoples individual colour choices. To achieve this we banked on blue being peoples favourite choice. To ensure this would become the dominant colour we provided a choice of vibrant pint, a zesty yellow and a subtly distinctive lime green as well as two shades of blue. The result was a randomly selected colour scheme that achieved exactly what we were hoping.
In addition to these primary moves, the scheme also benefits from a number of more subtle marginal gains. By narrowing the party walls we have been able to shorten the overall length so that one whole terrace of huts could be removed from the most exposed section of the waterfront. This has the added benefit of opening up new views, and along a greater extent of the promenade.

A walkway with handrails has been installed along the tops of the beach huts, with connecting bridges between sections of terraces enabling pedestrians to enjoy the spectacular Solent views from an elevated position. Steps up to the rooftop walkway from the rear upper promenade double as extra seating for visitors, interspersed with benches.A galvanised steel ramp now curves around the World War II pillbox at the western end of the site and concrete ramps have been installed to give wheelchair users and pushchairs access to both promenades.

Construction techniques more common to civil engineering projects were employed to create structures designed to withstand the conditions. Pre-cast concrete sections form the body of the huts. The design is softened by concrete front panels featuring a range of coastal-inspired designs from pebbles to Keyhaven River and the Needles. A new sea wall has also been incorporated into the rear of the huts to improve the coastal defences.

The project is an exercise in concrete design and the use of a bespoke Reckli formwork liner allowed us to create a bespoke piece of public artwork on the end of each terrace, adjacent to the improved access steps.

The project was managed by a project team made up of NFDC councillors and officers along with representatives of Milford Parish Council and the New Forest Beach Hut Owners’ Association.Engineering consultancy Ramboll UK Ltd led the design development of the scheme for NFDC, appointing Totton-based Snug Architects to develop the vision. Importantly, early design ideas were shared with the public and their views taken into consideration when the project team selected the preferred design.

Damian Westlake of Ramboll UK Ltd, who led the design team said “We were delighted to have the opportunity to design and supervise this interesting and challenging scheme. The design started with an aspiration to enhance the waterfront, provide robust beach huts and meet the needs of beach hut users, local people and visitors. Through close working with NFDC, project stakeholders and latterly with Raymond Brown Construction Ltd, we believe that the new beach huts and promenade areas have been designed and constructed in a way that fully realises this aspiration.

Following design development and public feedback the scope of the scheme expanded to include improving the public areas around the beach huts, which resulted in an increase in the original budget which had been based on like for like replacement. A budget of £1.26million was allocated in 2014 for the like for like replacement of 119 beach huts at Milford-on-Sea. The scheme expanded to include improvements to the public areas around the huts, resulting in a total investment in the seafront and 119 replacement beach huts of £2.36million. This includes £430,000 contributed to the rebuild costs by the owners of the 119 beach huts.

Raymond Brown Construction of Ringwood, began construction in September 2016 and completed the build on schedule. Kevin Valentine, Divisional Director for Raymond Brown Construction said: “It has been a pleasure to work with New Forest District Council on this project. Our team has worked diligently to deliver the scheme in time for the summer season and fully in line with expectations. I know we are all proud of the end result and hope the community and visitors alike will enjoy the new facilities”. 

 The result is a subtle transformed and highly distinctive new waterfront for both the beach hut owners, residents and visitors at Milford-on-Sea. The project is also an exercise in how sea defences can be effectively inhabited. The integration of sea wall, beach huts and promenade into a single integrated entity has resulted in significant added value and is a case study of how our coastlines could be transformed in an age of climate change.
Paul Bulkeley, Snug’s Design Director sums it up: “This is a great example of what can happen when you have an open minded client and dynamic collaboration between architect and engineer. This is how we will best solve societies emerging challenges. Together we were able to transform what was a disaster for the hut owners into an opportunity for all.”

Symbiotic design

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Snug are starting a national debate on the merits of Symbiotic Design. This is about thinking outside the silo, exploring how multiple functions can be added to a project without compromising the primary function. The result can be significant added value at little or no added cost. It is an inherently sustainable approach to design that creates additional outcomes from what were single function solutions.

Our first application of this approach was our proposal for adding wind turbines to lamp posts. The lamp post already provides the support, the wiring and all the prelim costs of installation. All the wind turbines need is to borrow the existing infrastructure supplied by the lighting columns. The result is symbiotic infrastructure, a net gain at little or no extra cost or impact.

Our most recent applications of this ground breaking approach is in the design of symbiotic sea defences, a prototype applied and now delivered at our Milford-on-sea beach hut project. The concept is simple. Take the costs of essential infrastructure, normally a sea wall, and add value by inhabiting it. In this case we inhabit the wall by adding multiple uses in and around the essential concrete sea defence. In this instance concrete c-sections laid on their sides achieve a robust 1 in 200 year sea defence whilst also providing new beach huts within, and a promenade on the roof.

Symbiotic Sea Defences

99% – Beach huts, promenade, inhabitation

1% – Sea defences

The result is a liability transformed into an asset. A government grant transformed into the seed funding for a major waterfront rejuvenation. Traditionally the money spent on sea defences achieves one thing and one thing only, defence from the sea. It often comes at a high price, cutting people off from the waterfront and destroying the everyday due to fears about the ‘one day’. Our approach ensures that the essential requirement of sea defence is not compromised. Instead it is added to with multiple additional uses being derived from the core ingredients of the project and at little additional cost. We believe this approach could create significant long term revenue for local authorities, leveraging government grants to create cultural and economic transformation of the seafront.

Symbiotic Design is all about thinking across silo’s. Our inhabited sea defences recognise the all important necessity for robust sea defences. Delivering sea defences is not, however, seen as the end but instead becomes the beginning, the seed funding for wider urban regeneration. Secondary uses leverage the primary use in the same way as symbiote’s do in nature.  The result is significant added value and a more holistic and multidisciplinary approach to infrastructure design. We believe it is this approach that will deliver truly sustainable solutions in the future. It is time for cross silo thinking, it is time for Symbiotic Design!

Thinking outside the box

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Now this is what thinking outside the box looks like…a circular runway. This radical and novel airport concept is known as the endless runway. It is not a new idea, but this incarnation is the brainchild of and is backed up by proper research and integrates science and technology in order to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the airport.

Whether it ever comes to fruition is secondary. It is this kind of willingness to think differently about the challenges of modern life that keeps our species on a forward trajectory, or is that a curved one!

Delighted to win Central Winchester SPD

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

Historic winchester map

We are delighted to have been selected as part of the team to work with JTP, an award-winning ‘placemaking’ practice of architects and masterplanners, to work with the Council and wider community to create a Supplementary Planning Document for what was known as Silverhill. This will set out a vision for the future development of central Winchester through collaborative planning and consultation.

The decision by Winchester City Council follows the consideration of 17 high quality bids received from organisations who were interested in working on the central Winchester project.

The council stated, ‘JTP has formed a strong team to work on the commission with Hampshire based Snug Architects and landscape architects Ubu Design together with consultancies with expertise in commercial property, movement and infrastructure.‘ We are due to start work on the project early in 2017.

Cllr Victoria Weston, Chairman of the Central Winchester Informal Policy Group said:

‘The Central Winchester Informal Policy Group is delighted to be working with JTP and their team on this exciting opportunity to work with the public and stakeholders to formulate guidance for the regeneration of central Winchester.’

Marcus Adams, Managing Partner at JTP said:

‘We recognise the significance of this site in activating the wider regeneration of Winchester, and appreciate its rich heritage which will play an important part in informing the framework.

Through our unique collaborative design processes we will aim to build a consensus to create a distinctive place, reimaging and enhancing the character and identity of Winchester.’

The Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) sets out the type and layout of land uses that could be built on the Silver Hill site and will help to ensure that the development is fit for the future and will rejuvenate such a prominent part of the City.

  • You are currently browsing the archives for the Vision category.