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Top tips

Design

Design Read more

Walthamstow Social Rent Scheme

Background:

  • A development of ten two-storey houses constructed by a group of self builders for Circle Housing's Circle 33.
  • Members of the Headway Self Build Group collective were recruited through local networks and assessed by Waltham Forest Council's Housing Department to be in housing need.
  • The Community Self Build Agency recommended a 'shell and fit-out' development whereby design and build contractor Kind & Company would build the structural shell of the houses, designed by Jon Broome Architects, and the self builders would carry out some second fix carpentry, decorations and fencing.
  • The social housing scheme is for rental purposes and remains in the ownership of Circle 33.
  • The project is situated at Headway Gardens, off Penrhyn Grove, in Walthamstow, London.

Delivery:

  • The site, a derelict garage court, is owned by Circle 33 and was gained during the acquisition of an estate.
  • The housing association had previously sought planning permission for affordable housing on three occasions; all of which failed to get planning permission for reasons that included overdevelopment, loss of off-street parking and inadequate vehicular access (traffic consultants were duly appointed for detailed analysis). One house designed for a wheelchair user was also required to conform with planning policy.
  • When approached by a self build group, Circle 33, with guidance of the Community Self Build Agency, was happy to include the site in their affordable housing programme as a self build development, having previously carried out a feasibility for affordable self build family housing.
  • The site, a flat disused backland garage site surrounded by the back gardens of neighbouring houses, features ten homes in total: one two-bedroom; six three-bedroom; two four-bedroom; and, one two-bedroom house for a wheelchair user. The two and three-bedroom houses are on plots of an average size of around 130m2 and the plots of the four bedroom houses are around 280m2. The site has been subsequently enlarged by adding a small parcel of unwanted derelict garden to the two four-bedroom house gardens.
  • Three options were prepared for developing the site with two-storey family homes with gardens: one had a small private patio at the back with a shared open space beyond; another had houses grouped around a cul-de-sac with conventional front and back gardens; and the third option grouped the houses facing into a shared open space. The second option was preferred by the self build group.
  • The houses were constructed by the contractor under a design and build contract with Circle 33 and the self builders carried out a limited amount of second fix carpentry, fixing window boards, skirtings, kitchen units plus the decorating and external fencing.
  • The self build group generally consists of young families - many of whom previously lived in overcrowded flats on a nearby council estate. One or two members have experience in the building industry whilst one or two members are single mothers. There is not a wheelchair user amongst the membership of the self build group and so the local authority will nominate a tenant to rent the wheelchair dwelling.
  • The two-storey terraced houses feature a prefabricated timber frame construction on a beam and block ground floor, on trench fill foundations, with concrete interlocking roof tiles brick cladding generally with some cladding panels. The intermediate floors are open web joists to facilitate running services, and service voids are incorporated into the external walls to avoid penetrations of the vapour control and airtightness layer which is formed of oriented strand boards.
  • Options for the elevations were prepared and discussed with the self build group and they chose brick cladding in preference to render or timber or a combination of materials.
  • The house plans provide a utility room generally only found in larger houses. This has space for a washing machine, waste bins, sink and a shower if required. A number of options for the house layouts were developed: kitchen with a view of the street with living room opening off the back garden; or alternatively, a 'parlour' living room at the front of the house with a family kitchen facing the back garden. The latter was the arrangement favoured by all the self builders and the option for a separate living room or an open plan ground floor living/dining/kitchen which was chosen by two of the self builders.
  • The first floor rooms were designed to be open to the underside of the roof, creating a mezzanine level accessible by ladder. This increases the usable area of the house within the same footprint for the building. It also creates a spacious feel to the rooms and makes it much easier to achieve an airtight envelope. Unfortunately, this feature was eliminated for cost reasons during negotiations with the contractor.
  • The original design included solar hot water heating but this has been omitted in preference to photovoltaic (PV) panels at the contractor's suggestion.
  • The internal and external services, drainage, roads and external works and landscaping were all undertaken by the contractor.
  • The houses were designed to Passivhaus standards which would reduce heating costs to as little as £80 a year but standards have been reduced to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 because the tender was beyond the budget. Insulation and airtightness standards have been reduced and Mechanical Heat Recovery Ventilation and triple glazing omitted. Nevertheless, the Passivhaus analysis of the size and orientation of windows and the check for summer overheating suggested that pergolas for shading should be provided to some south-facing houses, but these have also been omitted.

Finance:

  • The self builders pay the housing association social housing rent.
  • A small surplus - 'The Pot' - was made available for distribution to the members of the group on completion in recognition of their labour. However, the need to fund additional supervisory costs meant that The Pot was no longer available.
  • Circle 33 included the project in their first Affordable Homes Programme, which means the scheme is part funded by the Greater London Authority.
  • The building costs amounted to £921,383 and the external works cost an additional £261,187.

Timescale:

  • Easter 2006 – Local residents work with Community Self Build Agency to establish a viable self build group.
  • November 2007 - Initial feasibility for self build proposal for the site carried out for Circle Housing Trust.
  • February 2008 - Three options were finalised but the proposal was dropped.
  • December 2011 - Circle 33 acquired Warner Estate which included the vacant garage site.
  • March 2012 – Circle 33 commissions architects and project managers to develop a self build proposal. Options prepared for site layout, house plans and elevations and external materials for discussion and approval by self build group.
  • May 2012 - Pre-application planning enquiry.
  • July 2012 – Report on pre-application planning enquiry obtained.
  • May 2013 – Planning application made after design development, energy analysis, transport study and consultation with locals.
  • October 2013 – Planning permission granted.
  • November 2013 - Design negotiated and build contract prepared based on detailed design by architects re-employed by contractor (contract incorporates some completion works of house shells by self build group).
  • July 2014 – After attending a training course at a local college, the self builders start on site carrying out some second fix carpentry and decorations to the first four houses.
  • Early 2015 – Project completed.

Learning Points:

  • Deciding to custom build in a group environment might not always see a reduction in costs; any potential saving in labour on this project was negated by additional project management and supervision costs.
  • Always aim to agree on all plans and ideas with a developer/contractor; the Headway Self Build Group had to forgo the long-term benefits of additional space and very low energy costs due to the different priorities of the contractor.
  • Self building can be just a learning experience rather than a money-making machine. The small surplus - 'The Pot' - which was made available for distribution to the members of the group on completion in recognition of their labour dried up. However, their were benefits: the group learnt how to carry out some of the construction of their homes and will fully understand their operation; and, the members managed to move from overcrowded homes to new houses with gardens and improved energy performance.

Related Links:

Walthamstow Social Rent SchemeWalthamstow Social Rent SchemeWalthamstow Social Rent SchemeWalthamstow Social Rent SchemeWalthamstow Social Rent SchemeWalthamstow Social Rent Scheme