An intergenerational housing scheme for older people and students, designed to a Passivhaus standard.
Melfield Gardens will provide 30 affordable, independent living homes for people aged 55+, and two, four-bedroom homes for postgraduate students. In return for being ‘good neighbours’, the students will be charged a sub-market rent. Each will spend time assisting older residents, offering company or participating in recreational activities in the communal spaces, to help combat loneliness.
The Passivhaus scheme is split into two subtly splayed buildings that embrace a pedestrian-friendly central landscaped space. A shared ‘garden room’ sits at the foot of the western building, wrapping around into the protected garden to the rear for residents and their visitors.
Co-design and community engagement was central to the design process due to the proximity of nearby houses. Any proposal had to reassure these residents that there would be benefits for them in the form of improved public realm, parking, entrances, safety and security. We held a variety of consultation events and used VR headsets to give Phoenix tenants and neighbours the opportunity to experience the new buildings in an immersive 3D way, as well as the more traditional drawings and models.
As well as learning from this innovative social pilot, Phoenix Community Housing is keen to achieve a fully certified Passivhaus building as the first step towards zero carbon. This ‘fabric-first’ approach, with very high levels of insulation and air tightness which reduce energy consumption to extremely low levels, demands design rigour and excellent teamwork.
To make the new Category 2+ and 3 homes as attractive as possible to the older residents, we adopted a dual aspect and flexible ‘one-bedroom-plus’ model. This incorporates an additional ‘study/hobby room’ with a pocket door to allow it to become part of the main living space or remain separate. This provides residents with greater flexibility to tailor their homes to their own requirements as they age in place, in line with HAPPI principles. This space could be used as additional living space or somewhere temporary for a carer or relative to sleep in.
The east-west orientation of the site is not ideal for Passivhaus (north-south is preferable), so it was essential to optimise the ‘form factor’ of the buildings by keeping the massing and form simple and minimising overshadowing between the blocks on this challenging infill site. The size and placement of the triple-glazed windows were carefully considered in relation to orientation.
Brick banding, slight recesses, ribs and columns will add expression to the façades without adversely impacting the insulation layer in the wall build-ups. The new buildings pick up on subtle balustrade detailing from the adjacent tower, as well as reflecting the use of sky-frames to emphasize key corners, so the new interventions complement the existing.