Thursday 28 March 2013

Holly Lodge Design: the challenges!

Due to the specialist nature of the design, the whole design project team: mcch’s housing team, architect, designers and the contractor, encountered challenges from day one. They worked closely with the support teams, families and specialists, asking many questions in order to really understand what needed to be achieved.  This design project team met on a regular basis to build up an understanding of the likely triggers, scenarios and behaviours of the prospective tenants so that they could develop a building specification which would ensure that the ultimate design would meet the needs of the known individuals and would aid and enhance how they would be supported and also keep the support team safe. They met with the support teams and families over many months and also visited other schemes to understand what was and wasn’t working well in those environments. They spent hours researching and sourcing materials to ensure they found exactly what they wanted to create the right environment.  As the support teams are not “techies” they have also had a steep learning curve understanding some of what is possible from a technical point of view. Ideas have had to be turned into reality, so team work and good communication across the whole project has been vital from the outset. 

on site in March 2013

Balance has been a recurring theme throughout the design and build. We wanted to create homes and not environments that were clinical. When visiting some other schemes we noticed they often appeared sparse and institutional. We knew that many of the materials that they had to use for practical and safety purposes would not help with this aim, so they counteracted some of this with curved walls, mood lighting and colour which, overall, created a softer and more homely ambiance. Mcch were also mindful about getting the balance right when it came to ‘future-proofing’ the properties. Although they wanted to provide for the individuals known to be moving in, they did not want to create anything too bespoke so that the properties could not be useful to future tenants. One of the ways they have achieved this is by constructing non structural walls which can be moved without affecting the overall construction.

Curved non structural internal walls will help to reduce incidents of self harming and generally soften the environment.

Long term maintenance costs have also been considered all the way through the design and build as mcch do not want their tenants to have to pay high service charges. Designing with this in mind, such as super insulating the properties, low energy lighting to name but a few,  has enabled mcch to keep these costs to a minimum. To reduce disruption to the tenants when repairs and maintenance are due, most services are accessible from outside. For example, there is external access to kitchen sinks, wcs, baths and wash-hand basins in case of blockages or problems with the supplies. Underfloor heating controls and isolation switches for the electrics are in the external cupboards. 

External access to services reduces disruption to tenants

The scheme will achieve Code 3 for sustainable construction (Code is a single national standard to guide industry in the design and construction of sustainable homes. Rating range from 1 -6).

The Secured by Design officer is very interested in the scheme and mcch and the design team are working with them as some of the principles are somewhat different to a general needs development.  The SBD awards consider the standards of physical security and use of natural surveillance and defensible space and acknowledge high levels of security and safety at awarded sites. Having to balance security with safety for tenants, staff and the local community, is proving to be a challenge for the SBD officer as they too have to understand how the scheme will be run.


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