Recommendations for living at Superdensity - Design for Homes


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There's a fundamental importance to get the qualitative aspects of the scheme right. Tall buildings create microclimates at their base. Of course, privacy is a considerable issue to be dealt with. If you think you can be heard by the people living next door, he said very very stressful issue. Creates the risk of overshadowing the risk of falling objects the risk of downdrafts.


Open space needs to be easily accessible. 24 hours security is a concern for everybody living in cities. They’re even cases where the buildings being proposed are little better than some of the buildings that they are replacing. London is growing faster than any other European city and is predicted to increase by 800,000 by 2016. Over 30,000 new homes are needed each year to give London the chance of successfully housing this growing population. But with limited land available to build these homes the only way to deliver them is by driving up densities.


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Westminster council used to tele-density cap at150 dwellings per hectare, a density of which many Victorian and Edwardian neighbourhoods operate successfully. Any proposal over this limit had to go to the housing minister and be reviewed by experts to check for the right features like generous space standards and quality public amenity.


Odhams' walk, the last DLC housing estate built in 1981 was designed at 154 dwellings per hectare, so at just three percent over the benchmark, had to go through a rigorous review and design process. It was given planning permission because among other things scheme has generous private and semi-private outdoor spaces. The scheme won a historic housing design award this year, as the housing estate stood the test of time through good design, effective management and a consistent community.


But inner city developments now expect density levels of two or three times that found at Odhams. We've gone from 150 homes to the Hector raced past 300 and are now reaching well over 450 these are super densities. The problem is that there is no current guidance for planning applications about super densities, even though these schemes require more thorough approach to procurement, design and management.


Is that enough focus on how people actually live in and around buildings and are we in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past? This film will illustrate that with the right approach we can provide popular housing and places that thrive in the long term.


Recommendations for living at Superdensity

High density development and the increased land value that flows from it can and should bring about wider benefits for the whole community. Increase density allows us to provide an increased level of service in terms of social infrastructure including schools, health centres, and community facilities. The issue really is around the overall quality of the design not just the physical design, but the social supports, the networks, the support facilities, the landscapes and environments, which allow those buildings and those communities to flourish. The advantage of Superdensity as it does allow for far greater support in terms of public transport, in terms of social facilities and community facilities, to make a sustainable community work.


Balanced Communities

Currently the needs for middle income families are not being met in many city centres in the UK. And we have to make sure that Superdensity schemes provide accommodation which is an attractive proposition for this vital section of the community. As disposable incomes rise, people want bigger dwellings. The one or two bedroom flats that we’re now providing have become unpopular with both tenants and residents and, the buildings could well become the slums of the future. Often the affordable homes are in separate blocks of a different appearance to the private sale homes but, it is possible to do very high quality at completely integrated developments. I challenge you to tell which part of this scheme is affordable housing and which is private.


Making Flats Work for Families

Most families aspire to a two or three storey house with its own front door and a private back garden, but even then Superdensity schemes it’s possible to replicate most of those features. We like to propose high level duplexes these maximise the number of homes which can enjoy large roof terraces, or secret gardens hidden within the room slope. These are great spaces there completely private you are not overlooked by anyone else, and invariably you get fantastic views. Developers and design teams need use all their imagination to provide sufficient breathing space in new homes and to cater for storage of all sorts, from clothing to bikes and utility spaces for laundry.


Organising and Accessing Flats

One of the key things to get right with any residential development is the journey from the street to your private front door. London's terraced house, its most enduring, successful building type does this effortlessly. The challenge for designers today is to make it work for today's norm, the 5 to 10 storey apartment block. There are three broad typologies, core access, corridor access and deck access. We prefer to arrange apartments around multiple core access. This increases the number of lifts and stairs but, it creates a more compact plan with corresponding savings in the amount of common parts. By reducing the number of homes sharing one main entrance, we increase security, reduce the risk of anti-social behaviour and by clustering small numbers of flats around landings it can even promote neighbourliness. Most importantly every flat can have the best orientation.


Corridor access is possibly the most difficult to work successfully at Super densities. There needs to be limited number of doors off each space and the corridors need to be wide and well lit. Deck access can be a really successful alternative with adequate width, with orientation such that the deck access has sunshine and with space for people to socialise and mingle, it can work really well too.


Privacy and Noise

Noise is completely overtaken the visual as the major issue for the layout construction of new housing. So, if you look at a lot of designs in the 18th and 19th century, they use buffer zones, they used essentially the staircase, the corridor, the circulation space, to separate to bedrooms. The problem with a lot of temporary properties is that they tend to put bedroom mirroring bedroom. In middle of the night if there's any noise of any kind you're going to hear it.


There are now balconies on most new apartment blocks, some of them are huge and we need that kind of dimension for people to go outside so you can sit for round some kind of occasional table and eat some kind of outdoor meal, people would do that but they'll only do that occasionally unless the balconies private.


Outdoor Space and Public Realm

When it comes to the design of outdoor space and public realm at Superdensities, many of the conventional orthodoxies don't really apply, it can't just be thought about in two dimensions. The intensity of use is much greater, and the micro climatic effects can be quite severe. The materials need to be of high quality and the design needs to be carefully considered.


You enter into a very difficult area of actually trying to ensure shared space around blocks, which work. Space which works enviromentally in terms of daylight, sunlight, landscape and space where there is very very clear function.


I that its absolutely fundamental when you're designing an identity, that not only do you get the quality of ammenity space right and the quantum of the space right, but also that you draw a clear distinction between what's public, what shared, and what's private space.


By pushing up high density you can provide very very rich spaces, which allow the communities who live in those high density areas to enjoy the open spaces in a far more varied way than they would enjoy small scale piece of private space.


Environmental Sustainability

Superdensity developments offer real advantages when it comes to tackling the causes of climate change. The compact built form, the scale of it, its accessibility and the mix of uses, for example, all lend themselves very naturally to a reduction in carbon emissions and to much greater energy efficiency. These higher standards are achieved through the use of integrated energy systems such as, combined heat and power.


Really welcoming landscaped areas and green spaces need to be provided in Superdensity schemes, either at roof level or at ground level but, in any case really well maintained.


Ironically by building at such high density it's allowed us to create fantastic public realm and one of the most biodiverse places in London.


Superdensity schemes on major transport routes should be part of a green transport plan, this means providing alternatives to the conventional cars such as, car sharing schemes, charging points for electric vehicles, cycle storage and positions for secure deliveries.


We need to think innovatively about waste management for example the use of new underground vacuum waste and recycling systems, anaerobic digestion, biogas generation, these order systems add real quality of life benefits and improve the environmental performance of schemes and, there are a lot easier to incorporate in higher density and Superdensity developments.



Some of the real failings in high density experiments in last 40 years but not necessarily have been down to the design of the architecture but have been down to the subsequent management.


Long term sustainability depends on arrangements for good management. No one wants to live in a development which is not clean or not in a good state of repair, or where residents are able to get away with anti-social behaviour.


Superdensity schemes are usually very complex they have mixed tenure, mixed use, multiple landlords and this makes from major management challenges coordinating different landlords and reaching all the residents. Good design makes management much easier and less costly and this becomes absolutely critical at super densities. Poor design can store up major problems for the future.


Meeting the Cost of Service Charges

High service charges are a significant part in management plan and, these costs rise rapidly with density because of the need to pay for things like waste lifts, concierges and landscaping and so on.


We have a real responsibility to ensure the public space is maintained in the long term to very high quality, and we also need to set that against the difficulty of putting far too great a service charge on a low income families.


Instead of residents paying for services and ongoing basis they could be treated as a first cost. That is, they could form part of the developers cost, or be eligible for grant or, perhaps both. In other words, they could be capitalised.


At planning stage, the design and access statement should include proposals for management and service charges, which should then be incorporated into the section 106 agreement.


Our recommendations covering design standards, management plans and affordability criteria, must be specified in planning briefs and local plans, because otherwise developers will not take them into account when they assess site values.


The Role of Local Authorities in Procurement

Public authorities have a very key role in promoting successful high density Superdensity housing, they can do that for their role as planning authorities, where they are landowners or agents, they could do it by promoting exemplary developments, which can act as showcases as to how it can be done.


They have to be really proactive and bring together all aspects of infrastructure, planning, education, shopping and the provision of services. Public authorities have a key role in ensuring that the housing this built now will not be redeveloped in 40 years’ time. So, with the right approach its more than possible to create Superdensity housing in places that have long term appeal. The challenge is to build them at the highest quality. It’s up to the industry working successfully together to deliver.

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