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Marmalade Festival 2018: Alternative Housing Solutions for Oxford

This week we were at Marmalade engaging in all things housing, as the Festival explored this year’s theme on ‘place-based approaches to social change’.

Marmalade is a more informal, open-access, fringe event to the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. Both Oxford based, they run parallel to each other every year. What is great about Marmalade is that it is powered by it’s participants and engaged with by members of the local community (and wider) who are focussed on tackling social and environmental challenges.

Speaking about Co-housing examples at Community Led Housing Event

Transition by Design invited our director, Clare Nash, to speak about co-housing at their event on community-led housing on Wednesday 11th April. A few of the team have attended Marmalade events in previous years so it was great for Clare Nash Architecture to get involved this time too! In order to explain co-housing, Clare spoke about some project examples in her book ‘Contemporary Vernacular Design- How British Housing can Rediscover it’s Soul’; Sieben Linden, Germany and Copper Lane, London. A couple of key elements were; sharing of resources, higher quality housing and reduced loneliness.

Clare Nash speaking about ‘co-housing’ at Marmalade

Alternative Housing Models in Oxford

The event was intended for housing providers on the delivery of alternative housing models in Oxford. The two-hour session started off by discussing and identifying current barriers and challenges that housing providers face when thinking outside the box for housing typology. Following this, the conversation developed in smaller groups under the guidance of experts in the fields of planning, land, construction and custom-splitting; to think about any opportunities and ways we can work together to overcome some of these barriers. The workshop was quite fast-paced but with such varied experience in the room, it really got us thinking about more aspects to community-led housing than just the design of it.

Tricky problems – finance and land…

It was clear that a major sticking point when it comes to delivery of community-led housing is finance- we need a profession mindset shift here to make required financing more accessible. Also, thinking about this in the urban context of Oxford, another tricky element is land. The majority of Clare Nash Architecture’s projects are rural, so we do not usually have problems with people actually finding land. However, we do experience the challenges surrounding the viability of land for development etc. and these can be frustrating and cause project delays- not something we or our clients want to go through!

Clare and I really enjoyed discussing topics we believe will support more sustainable, affordable housing that will respond to the current quality of housing and it was a great opportunity to do so with other people who are passionate about making a difference!

More Marmalade events – Co-living and Co-housing

On day three of Marmalade, I attended Art Earth Tech’s workshop on ‘co-living’ where I learnt more about the differences behind terms like ‘co-housing’, ‘co-living’ etc. In brief, they explained co-living to be sharing your main living spaces e.g. kitchen, living, washing with smaller private areas; while co-housing is more about having your own private home with private amenities whilst still having some shared resources and spaces. Co-living isn’t a crazy new idea…many of us do it/have done it at university or in shared housing such as Housing of Multiple Occupation (HMO). However, in Oxford, these can often be of poor quality with little attention paid to the environmental benefits of shared living or integrating the community/residents into the design, maintenance or general running of the dwelling(s).

Penny, Tom and Naima from Art Earth Tech shared interesting information on their project including statistics on household environmental impact- some of which were astounding. Did you know that the average household produces 26 tons of waste greenhouse gases per year? To offset that in CO2 equivalent terms, we would need to plant 150 trees with a lifespan of 100 years each…that is a lot of trees!

In teams we spent an hour developing our ideal urban co-living community with each of the four groups coming up with something different including; a transition community of 100 young professionals living on their own for the first time, retrofitting an existing building for multi-generational residents under the cooperative or community land trust model for rent and a highbred co-housing, co-living self-sustaining community. The fact that every table came up with a different project just goes to show the opportunity for more types of housing like this and the varied social groups it could benefit.

Co-living design workshop at Marmalade

This was another fun session to get our thinking caps on and think both creatively and strategically about what a co-living community is, could be and make actionable and sustainable in an urban environment. I particularly enjoyed engaging with the variety of experience in the room which varied from super clued up on this topic to a new and tentative interest; in addition to meeting people with a shared interest in more sustainable, community orientated housing.

The rest of the festival was packed full of other ways to approach social and environmental change including; food waste, local volunteering and one planet living. Overall Marmalade was great and we are excited to continue the conversation on alternative housing models in Oxford (and wider), so that housing can be more sustainable. Sustainable in terms of affordability, energy efficiency and shared values, while simultaneously more communal with the residents and local community integral to the design process and ongoing maintenance of the residence.

Check out our other blogs on co-housing here: http://clarenasharchitecture.co.uk/portfolio/inspiring-housing-design-blogs/

CNA visit to Straw Bale House by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

Recently Clare Nash Architecture Ltd. (CNA) visited the famous Straw Bale House in North London designed by Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till. With sustainability and eco design at the centre of CNA’s design approach, we were excited to be given a tour by Jeremy himself who explained how their pioneering project came about.

The team met outside the house-come- office’s tall wicker gates at the very end of Stock Orchard Street in London. With the railway on one side and Victorian terraces on the other, a building on gabion stilts with sand bags on one elevation is not quite what you would expect to find at the end of the road!

Luckily it was a dry (if a little chilly!) day as the tour started outside, with Jeremy explaining how the design concept for the Straw Bale House was developed through Sarah and him sharing stories, before any drawings were even started. Once the design was established through drawings the next challenge was getting it through planning, which was perhaps aided by one of Jeremy’s anecdotes involving a party for local residents. The building is well known for being the first straw bale house to be granted planning permission in the UK, however there are many other materials at play here including sandbags and stone gabions which certainly challenged ideas on conventional building materials at the time. The talk outside lasted for about an hour discussing structure and sustainability.

Turning the corner around the house it was a pleasant surprise to find their garden, a surprisingly green and spacious area for central London. As lovers of fresh vegetables, it was great to see what crops they were growing in their garden and to hear the clucking of chickens too! Mid-construction decisions led to only having a back door which is now the front door and works well as it encourages you to walk through the garden before entering the house.

Walking inside and up the stairs I was not sure what to expect of a space which is both living and office, shared and private. However, the top of the stairs greeted us with a warm open plan living space that was cleverly divided into functional spaces; making sense of the unusual floor layout which was organised around an organically shaped larder inspired by Malawi cooking ovens. The use of natural wood and exposed white painted steelwork could have had a cool industrial feel to it but was complimented by splashes of warm orange furnishings and large amounts of glass allowing natural light to flood the space enhancing the feeling of homeliness. One of my favourite areas was the kitchen which was again homely and quirky too as each item seemed carefully considered, perhaps handcrafted, all the way down to the papier mache lampshade suspended over the table.

A fairly large group were on the tour with us but after admiring the first floor, we ascended the (perhaps not quite building regs approved!) staircase into the tower. Lining the stairs were shelves and shelves of books which seemed to change in levels of architectural relevance the further up you went. So at the bottom were architectural text books while at the top, nearing Jeremy’s office, were fiction books and novels. Having a library like this might get tiring in reality but as a visitor it was a very charming idea!

On our way out we popped into Sarah Wigglesworth’s attached (Quilted) office where she was working. It was an impressive space, both organised and bright and surprisingly quiet despite being on the railway track side- the sandbags must be doing their job!

Although the project is known for having challenged ideas of structure and materials in terms of sustainability, it was very interesting to hear Jeremey Till say that the construction methods and material composition are actually not that sustainable in the context of what is possible today. Technology has moved on since the house was originally built; even the double glazing is no longer as efficient as it could be!  Nonetheless, the choice and composition of the interior materials and spaces has a certain quality to it that, while you could probably Google ‘Sarah Wigglesworth House’ or something similar; would just not be the same as experiencing in reality.

 

 

 

The Community Infrastructure Levy and what it means for self-builders and barn conversions

Community Infrastructure Levy Barns

A piece of legislation has recently been adopted by South Northamptonshire and South Oxfordshire district councils affecting certain developments that have been granted planning permission on or after the 1st April 2016.  This is a charge called the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which applies to new residential and retail developments. Most other councils will also soon be starting to apply this charge.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a charge that local authorities in England and Wales can choose to place on new developments, usually those with over 100m2 of floorspace, or that create one or more new dwellings.

Please note; this charge only applies if you are creating new-build floor space such as a new-build dwelling or a large home extension (over 100m2). This can also be a mezzanine level in a barn conversion. The CIL charge will apply to the new build floor space only (so the area of the mezzanine or extension) and not to any existing floor area.

Please also note, if you are a self-builder (i.e. you will be living in your new home for at least 3 years or it is an extension to your own home that you will be living in for at least 3 years) then you can apply for exemption to the levy.

The levy came into force in 2010 (but councils have been very slow to implement it, with many still not implementing the charge in 2017) and coincides with restrictions on the use of planning obligations such as Section 106 agreements.  A CIL enables the local authority to raise more money for local infrastructure improvements than Section 106 obligations. It also provides developers more certainty about costs, as it is a fixed charge.

Section 106 agreements and CIL

The CIL regulations can be complex. However, it is important to consider how it may affect you if intending to convert an existing barn or build/extend a new residential property in the future.

How might the CIL affect a barn conversion?

The good news is that changes of use, such as the conversion of a barn into a dwelling, do not usually attract the CIL for two reasons.  Firstly, a barn conversion does not usually involve creating 100m2 or more of new floorspace.  Secondly, floorspace that has been in legal use for a continuous period of at least six months within the 12 months preceding the granting of planning permission is disregarded when calculating CIL (See Section 40 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations).

Section 40 of the CIL Regulations

But, you might be liable for CIL if your barn conversion involves creating additional new-build floorspace (e.g a mezzanine or extension to the barn). Here the levy would only apply to the additional floor area, not the total building area.

How might the CIL affect self-builds/extensions?

A government initiative to stimulate the self-build market means that a development can also be exempt from the CIL if it is a self-build/extension project.

There are three types of self-build exemptions; for a whole property, for a residential annexe and for a residential extension.

  1. Whole Property

Those claiming exemption must own the property and use it as their primary residence for a minimum of three years post-completion. If the self-builder sells or rents their property within this period, they will be charged the full levy of their area.

  1. Residential extension

If certain criteria are met (see regulations 42A and 42B), then a self-builder will be exempt from paying the levy for extensions. For example; the main house must be the self-builder’s primary residence and only if the proposed extension enlarges the primary residence i.e. it is not an additional unit. Extensions less than 100m2 are already exempt according to the minor development exemption.

Regulations 42A and 42B

In both cases it is important that the correct procedure is followed in order to receive a notice of exemption; including not starting works before this is received. It is important to note that even if these types of projects do not require planning permission, the CIL will still be charged unless exemption applies.

Ultimately, the landowner is responsible for seeking CIL exemption, or, is liable for paying the levy within 60 days of commencement of the works. CIL payments are usually made in cash, but can also be paid “in kind”, for example through land.

CIL charges

Both councils use Charging Zones to determine the CIL cost, and have produced corresponding maps. In South Northants there are three main categories for charges; rural, urban and Sustainable Urban Extensions (SUEs) which range between £50/m2- £200/m2. In South Oxfordshire residential development can be liable for a charge of up to £150/m2. Both councils have produced Charging Schedules that set out the charges and answer FAQs.

South Northants CIL Information

South Northants CIL Charging Schedule

South Oxon CIL Information

South Oxon CIL Charging Schedule

 

October 5, 2016
The Community Infrastructure Levy and what it means for self-builders and barn conversions