Category Archives: Residential Developments

Contain Yourself

By | Architecture, Residential Developments, Small Buildings, Sustainable Design | No Comments


In every town and city, whether large or small, you’ll always find small, awkward shaped plots of land that sit between larger development sites. These ‘infill’ plots have generally been considered unusable. The aim of Contain Yourself was to tackle this unavoidable issue with a cost effective, design led approach, whilst also trying to create an ideal home for people just stepping onto the property ladder.


The size and structure of the house is based on that of a single shipping container, which is literally turned on its head to create a compact five storey property, needing just 2.6m squared of land to be placed.  Designed by the Heterarchy Studio, this innovative house design will be exhibited at the NRW in Dusseldorf, Germany from June until September this year.  The house is one of 24 designs chosen to be exhibited out of over 200 entrants to this open International design competition set by the NRW late last year. Entrants were called to submit a maximum of two 30x30cm boards and a ‘Tweet’ (140 characters) explaining the design. Each of the 24 submissions will be showcased with a 1:5 scale model.


The 2.6m x 12.2m container is sunk into an insulated concrete pit in the ground, creating two floors below ground, leaving 8m above ground level for a further 3 levels.  To create usable interior spaces, the skin of the container is punctured to allow for angled, cubic projections to cantilever from the structure. Within the interior the house is a central staircase that leads to a room on each floor, with a bedroom and bathroom below ground level and entrance space, kitchen and living room on the floors above.

An external cladding of solar responsive glass panels over a super insulated multi foil layer is used, making the building thermally efficient and therefore cost effective.

In a time when getting onto the property ladder is harder than ever, these compact homes provide a solution for first time buyers.  They tackle the issue of wasted land and the growing demand for affordable housing whilst staying design conscious, cost effective and energy efficient.

New home design – England 0 Germany 1

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Following a recent trip to Nurnberg I find myself reflecting on the quality (or lack of) of new housing in the UK compared to some of our European neighbours.

During my short stay in the city I was struck by two things – the clearly evident vernacular style, which has developed over hundreds of years in response to climate and available materials, and secondly the quality of construction of the vast majority of new homes.

There is nothing more pleasing than to travel down a suburban street and see a line of residential dwellings, some dating back hundreds of years, some clearly very new, all differing in materials and construction method, yet sharing the same underlying vernacular architecture. A clear, linear progression, evidence of a cultural continuity and appreciation for those things that remain constant.

From the steeply pitched roof lines, maximising occupation of the roof space, to what seemed to be an obligatory inclusion of a habitable basement level for every new home. What you end up with a house that takes up no more space than your average 2 bed terrace in the UK, yet has pretty much twice the number of habitable rooms. What also impressed is the level of specification – from internal doors having rubber gaskets to increase sound insulation to widepsread use of galvanised steel rainwater products.

The Germans seem to take pride in their construction. The house I stayed in had a photograph of the electrician who installed the system fixed to the fuse board, a face beaming with clear satisfaction at a job well done, his telephone number underneath should you ever have a problem (or maybe just fancy a chat?). Driving on the autobahn, even the major infrastructure roadworks have open days where the workmen proudly show the public around the site, show them drawings and presumably give out free sausages.

Whilst there are some rare exceptions, house building in the UK seems to be simply about numbers – hitting targets, maximising profits, meeting market demand. Any idea of the social and human importance of good quality housing seems to be lost on us. I for one would welcome a change in the way we regulate new home design and construction, but somehow feel that given the continuing economic difficulties I’ll not be holding my breath.

More information on new home design>

Off-site manufacturing set to prosper in drive to cut construction waste

By | Architecture, Residential Developments, Sustainable Design | No Comments
Off-site manufacture of bathroom 'pods'. Image credit - building.co.uk

Off-site manufacture of bathroom 'pods'. Image credit - building.co.uk

The  industry of manufacturing building elements off site is expected to rise in popularity, due in particular to the governments drive to cut waste. Something we at the heterarchy design studio have been continuosly interested and involved in, we would welcome this upturn in popularity. Many of our clients will bear witness to the fact that we are the first to proclaim all of the positive benfits such methods can bring to any development, regardless of size or budget.

Obvious benefits include easier quality control (leading to better building standards), reduction of on-site programme times,  saving costs through minimising on-site waste, damage and theft, plus the ability to synchronise manufacture and supply with on-site demand (just-in-time). Less obvious benefits include the ability to ensure responsible sourcing through the entire supply chain, designing buildings through their entire life cycle (including dis-assembly and re-use of modules) and improved working conditions.

For more detailed information visit building.co.uk to read an in-depth article on the subject>

If you would like more information about how we could help your project – whether a  residential development, single house or the refurbishment and re-design of an existing building – contact our architecture and interior design studio.

Second home new-build developments provide welcome relief amidst economic uncertainty

By | Architectural / Interior Design, Residential Developments, Residential Interior Design | No Comments

According to a recent report by Knight Frank, the development of new build second homes have been providing the construction sector with some welcome relief during the recession, and will continue to do so through the current economic uncertainty.

  • After a slight decline of 0.4% in 2008 the number of second homes in Britain rose by 2.6% in 2009, to reach record levels of 245,384.
  • Knight Frank expects to see a further 2% rise in the total to more than 250,000 in 2010.
  • Forecasts by Deloitte and Oxford Economics suggest that between now and 2020 the amount of money spent by Britons holidaying in the UK is predicted to grow by 2.6% a year in real terms.
  • The amount of money spent by foreigners holidaying in the UK is predicted to grow by 4.4% a year.
  • Growth in UK tourism over the past three years has expanded beyond usual popular months with the highest growth in bookings seen in September and October, as well as Christmas and New Year.
  • 67% growth in nights spent in self-catering apartments in the UK between 2007 and 2010.
  • Growing demand is boosting yields. Good quality holiday lets typically offer between 5% and 7% gross rental yields, often achieving higher yields than properties let on shorthold tenancies.

To see the report in full click here to visit the Knight Frank website>

With increasing numbers of holiday makers looking to the UK as a destination of choice, it’s now more important than ever to ensure that the quality of holiday properties is better then ever. A good standard of accommodation is expected, both in terms of the quality of the development and the architecture and interior design of the individual homes.

The Heterarchy studio provide architecture and interior design services for a wide range of project types, for more information get in touch.

Changes in Planning Regulations make it easier than ever before to embark on building projects.

By | Architectural / Interior Design, Architecture, Residential Developments, Residential Interior Design | No Comments

Since October 1st 2008 there have been some quite significant changes with the Planning Regulations in relation to private dwellings. Classified as ‘permitted development’, the parameters have been broadened to allow more types of work to not require planning permission.

With projects such as loft conversions or house extensions, there are now size guidelines, within which a project would not require planning permission.  The process a home owner must go through is ‘self certification’ – this boils down to the council sending out a very simple tick box questionnaire, if you answer no to every question then you do not need planning permission.

This all sounds very simple, which of course it almost is!  However, in practice we have found that it is taking a while for the planning officers on the ground to fully get to grips with some of these changes.  In certain instances there are situations where different sources of planning guidance are giving contradictory advice, or other instances where language is simply ambiguous.

What should be commended, however, is the conscious effort to make the planning process more transparent and accessible.  Central to this is the new and improved planning portal website – www.planningportal.gov.uk.  Within the ‘general public’ section of the site are some very good semi-interactive, visual guides to what will and will not require planning permission.  You can even view the blog of the Director of the Planning Portal, and make your own comments and suggestions – http://portaldirector.wordpress.com/.

As part of our daily duties we use the planning portal website to submit our applications on line.  This is something which greatly improves the process for us. It’s still a bit hit and miss with the Local Authorities websites.  Once an application is submitted online, it is transferred to the website of the specific Local Authority.  Some of these are better than others at maintaining the online process, which should involve having all of the related documents available online – sadly this isn’t always the case.

To summarise, it is fair to say that there have been some definite concessions made with regard to what a home owner can do without requiring planning permission.  Combine this with the fact that the costs of employing the services of a builder are cheaper now than they have been for quite some time (there are a lot of builders with time on their hands) then there is no better time to embark upon a building project.