Five for 2015: The housing projects that say it all

What’s the state of UK housebuilding today? These five projects, all due for completion this year, give a few answers. Each one has a story to tell about the policies, priorities and creativity driving the shape of new housing schemes.

Development for all

Self build, custom build and co-housing all account for very small proportions of the UK’s new homes, but there are policy moves in the pipeline to grow that share. Meanwhile, in north London, a group of women aged from 50 to 80 plus is applying the co-housing approach in a scheme that might just make people stop and think about the way housing for the elderly is developed. The Older Women’s Co-Housing (OWCH), is working with Hanover Housing Group to create the UK’s first co-housing community of older people. They are developing a block of 25 one, two and three bedroom apartments in central High Barnet. Two thirds of the homes are for private sale, while the remaining third will be rented via partner housing association, Housing for Women.

Older women's housing designed by Pollard Thomas Edwards

The scheme is designed by architect Pollard Thomas Edwards, which was one of the research team behind a government-backed investigation into housing for older people (Housing our ageing population: panel for innovation or HAPPI), which considered the European co-housing model.

Residents should be moving into their new homes at the end of 2015, but the co-housing group is already providing mutual care and support, prompting interest that approaches like this could not only provide homes, but could also help ease squeezed care budgets.

Eco-town sets the standard for garden city

Last year the government announced the return of the garden city, with Ebbsfleet in Kent earmarked as the first location and Bicester in Oxfordshire as the second. Bicester is stealing a march on Ebbsfleet as back in 2009 a 1,000-acre site to the north west of the town was given government backing for the creation of an eco-town and its first homes are set to complete in 2015.

The first phase of development in Bicester, appropriately known as the Exemplar, will see the construction of 393 green homes, together with a primary school, community centre, an eco pub and retail centre. The green credentials of this first phase have been recognised with BioRegional One Planet Living status.

Affordable housing provider A2Dominion is lead developer for north west Bicester, working with the P3Eco partnership of consultants: Farrells, Turley Associates, Alan Baxter Associates, Farrer Huxley Associates and Penoyre and Prasad Architects. Other partners in the project include Cassadian Homes, Oxford & Mid Shires Cooperative Society, Oxford Brookes University and the Oxford & Cherwell College. Contractors working on the project include Willmott Dixon and Hill Partnership.

The initiative, which will see more than 6,000 homes developed in total, has attracted government backing for research looking at: rethinking the build process, designing for future climate, and aligning photovoltaics with the smart grid.

It’s art, but is it housing?

What happens when an artist lets their imagination loose with bricks and mortar? The answer to that can be found in the house being designed by architect FAT working with artist Grayson Perry, which is close to completion in the North Essex countryside. There’s little sign of brick or mortar in the artist’s vision; this brightly coloured and decorative cottage is the stuff of fairytales. The two-bedroom holiday home at Wrabness on the north Essex coast will contain specially commissioned artworks by Perry.

Grayson Perry designed house

Client Living Architecture expects to rent the house to holidaymakers from the spring. Also working on the project are: structural engineer Jane Wernick Associates; quantity surveyor, KM Dimensions; environmental design engineer Atelier Ten; landscaping firm Deakinlock; and contractor Rose Builders.

Solving a capital crisis

Young Londoners need homes. The Y:Cube may comprise just 26sq m of living space but it aims to deal with this pressing issue. The concept, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is intended to help provide low cost homes for single people in housing need. The first scheme in Mitcham, south west London is scheduled for completion in April, and will comprises 36 homes, with half of the residents coming from the YMCA and Merton Council having nomination rights for the remaining half. YMCA London South West developed the initiative with the architect and has had a prototype unit on show in nearby Wimbledon.

The Y Cube

The first development will be similar to the prototype, being constructed from a series of modular units, built using a panelised wall and roof system. The construction method allows units to be moved and relocated to meet local housing need as required over their 60-year life.

More rooms at the top

There may be warnings that the London property market is cooling, but the high rise apartment blocks under development continue to tell a story of confidence. Among the new skyscrapers being added to the capital’s skyline – and scheduled for completion this year – is Canaletto, a short walk from the tech hotspot of Old Street.

The 29-storey block, designed by UNStudio, contains 190 apartments and has everything an international skyscraper should. On the outside there’s a distinctive metal and glass façade that curves in an Art Deco style, while on the inside the buyer essentials include a swimming pool, resident cinema and a sky terrace on the twenty-fourth floor.

UNStudio design for Canaletto

Team on the scheme includes: client Orion City Road Trustee; development manager Groveworld; contractor Ardmore Group; engineering consultant URS Scott Wilson; mechanical and electrical consultant Hoare Lea; façade engineer Buro Happold.

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