This project was commissioned in early 2014, after the successful completion of another small development in Kent for the same client. We were asked to put together proposals for a site next to the busy Thanet Way in Kent. A brownfield site that has been vacant for over 25 years, it contained a number of unique design challenges, not least of which was the issue of noise next to such a major road.
The architectural approach was thus – to design a place so impressively welcoming that any planning concerns were consequently outweighed.
The Passivhaus standard was adopted, as was a contemporary approach to the local Kent vernacular. A mix of house types and sizes was proposed. But most significantly, the design team undertook to add a significant amount of planting to the site so that over time this project would not be “houses on a rural brownfield site” but a series of “woodland retreats”. This fitted into the local context which had a number of such micro-woodlands scattered amongst agricultural land.
Over 50% of the site has been designated as communal landscaped areas; incorporating woodland walks as well as more open green spaces and play areas for the resident community to enjoy. The development also links to the existing cycle route
There are 14 houses in total, from 3-bed up to 5-bed. The houses are arranged in such a way that they all open up into a communal central woodland, a place for children to play and a community to be built. Every effort was made to eliminate obvious boundary conditions in this central space that would interfere with the sense of community, while all of the houses also have their own private gardens which back onto the site boundary.
A key aspect of the woodland space was that roads needed to be eliminated too, at least in their typical form. A simple ring road serving the houses would instantly transform the site into a typical suburban development, unsuitable for an ambitious rural project such as this. Instead, using subtly designed grasscrete routes, vehicular access blends with pedestrian movement.
On the northern boundary lies 6 semi-detached units. These units were made semi-detached for Passivhaus efficiencies – a larger floor area to external envelope ratio.
All of the other houses were large enough to work as detached units, and all followed a similar orientation and logical layout – a long linear living space along the south edge, opening up to south facing private gardens, while maintaining views through to entrances on the north side the look out into the communal woodland.
This project was granted planning permission on 5th November 2015, with the client currently reviewing different procurement options to take the project forward.