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Highwood Court building, north west London, England – design by SUSD
14 May 2010
Design: SUSD Architects
Address: 112 High Street, Harlesden, London NW10 4SL
Highwood Court, a development of nine, new-build sustainable, affordable homes by SUSD.
The development is built on a former industrial courtyard site once occupied by a mannequin workshop amongst a number of manufacturing and trade uses over its 120-year history. Acquired by SUSD in 2005, the site posed a range of planning and logistical challenges, which had to be overcome. By being bordered by 26 separate owners, a highly sensitive approach was required to resolve all the Party Wall and neighbour issues. Additionally access was complex due to the compact nature of the site, reachable only through a narrow alleyway.
The contrast from the hustle and bustle of Harlesden High Street to the quiet of the courtyard with its sense of seclusion is marked. Highwood Court benefits from its immediate connection to all of Harlesden’s amenities (local shops, transport) and multi-cultural social mix. By locating an affordable, environmentally-responsible development built using modern methods of construction and in such a central location, SUSD intends to illustrate a new model for city centre living and nurture urban communities sustainably. It encourages multi-demographic groups and proves that it is possible to attain a feeling of retreat and security within a busy urban context.
Demolition and laying the foundation slab took place between December 2008 – April 2009 (the brick wall of the existing industrial structure was retained). Concept design of the homes was undertaken by SUSD’s in-house team who the collaborated closely with Becker-Haus, the Germany-based manufacturer of the timber panel system, during the design development phase in order to create the computer model from which the final panels were fabricated. On-site timber construction took place over 4 weeks including glazing, doors and making the structures weather-tight.
The design strategy achieves the objective of building a high-density development in which residents can interact with their neighbours whilst also providing a sense of privacy. SUSD made the decision at the earliest stage not to burden the site with a higher number of smaller flats, favouring good quality ‘starter homes’ over typically cramped London flats. Overlooking neighbours is avoided through the orientation of the homes with no windows onto the site boundary. The solution of low-rise density that follows the site’s existing horseshoe-shaped groundplan creates a communal atmosphere with the x1 2-bedroom and x8 3-bedroom homes configured like small townhouses and arranged around a communal landscaped courtyard.
The homes are constructed from sustainably-grown, solid spruce timber with Douglas Fir cladding. Details that define the architecture of the development include each home being given its own distinct area and entrance, facades distinguished with varying window patterns and specific cuts into the fabric to create the balconies that face away from the courtyard.
Spatial organisation is over three floors with an open staircase, incorporated by raising the platform in the courtyard slightly higher than the ground floor. This provides a sense of openness, an acoustical connection with the bedrooms on the upper and lower-ground floors and a stacked chimney effect which contributes to cross ventilation. The open-plan living and kitchen area is placed at the centre of the house to form a hub, with bedrooms above and below serving to bring in more light, connect the heart of the house more directly with the courtyard. This arrangement also enables both a connection as well as separation from the privacy of the sleeping areas.
Exposing the timber on internal walls celebrates the quality of the natural material and also emphasises the robust, substantial construction method adding to notion of feeling protected and cocooned within the home. Hardwood timber-framed windows and wooden flooring were chosen for their ecological benefits but also help position Highwood Court away from many low cost and affordable new-build homes currently being constructed in the UK.
Highwood Court building – Further Information
Active climate protection through the reduction of COs
– A certificate from the Carbon Bank shows that the Becker-Haus solid timber system used on this project captured 221 tonnes of carbon, “equivalent to driving 46 times around the world”.
– Solid prefabricated timber construction using materials from renewable sources
– Low-energy costs. The timber panel system helps achieve a high level of air tightness, more than five times the standard requirements.
– Green roofs – attracting wildlife and adding to the contrast with urban context
– Insulation – natural wood fibre also provides high thermal performance and therefore and low energy costs as well as sound insulation between floors.
– Windows – timber-framed and double-glazed with low u values
– Decking – the choice of ThermoWood ® – Scandavian soft wood from sustainable sources that is steam heat treated at a very high temperature in which the heat goes to the core of the wood drying out moisture & resin.
The result is reduced moisture content & enhanced physical properties, the end result is a product 50 % more stable than untreated softwood, highly resistant to insects and fungi and very long-lasting.
– Bicycle storage system
Harlesden Housing – Building Information
Highwood Court Team
Architect: SUSD (Project Architect Johannes Muller-Lotze)
Quantity surveyor: PT Projects
Main Contractor: Philiam
Structural engineer: KMG Partnership
M&E engineer: WR Associates
Landscape design: Jonathan Cook and SUSD
Photographs: David Grandorge
Founded in 2004, SUSD specialises in regeneration and sustainable, affordable homes. A design-focused developer with in-house architects. In each scheme, we prove that the highest standards of sustainable design can be attained within affordable housing developments.
Sales agent for Highwood Court Harlesden : Robert Barrett, Rolfe East New Homes: Tel: 020 8579 4080
Highwood Court images / information from SUSD Architects
Location: 112 High Street, Harlesden, London NW10 4SL, UK
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