Ecobuild round up: McCloud and a tea party
McCloud’s DSDHA scheme in Stroud approved for planning
Ecobuild is always incredibly useful for catching up with people. This year the high point was definitely being on stage (or rather on a sofa) with Kevin McCloud as part of the UK-GBC’s Big Tent speaker series, orchestrated by Simon McQuirk. What struck me about seeing Kevin in action at close range was how he manages to tie together all sorts of issues and be at the same time informative and relatively jargon-free. His holistic approach to housing at Hab is all about building community and he’s says it starts with landscape. Some tactics are gently subversive - planting espaliered apples trees between front gardens encourages neighbours talk to each other to sort out who gets the first apple. I tried to tease out whether there’s an element of imposing sustainable lifestyles on people here; he deftly sidestepped, with the observation that, as in all communities, people are free to participate - or not.
Hab’s big news is that their next development, DSDHA’s 78-unit Cashes Green in Stroud, received planning permission last week. I had a quick run through the scheme with DSDHA and Luke Engleback who did the landscape work at the Triangle and is carrying on with other Hab projects in the pipeline: a 230-unit development in Swindon, three sites in Oxford and another in Stroud. It’s scaling up.
Cashes Green’s sloping site (3- 4 metre fall across the site) is more complex than the Triangle with many mature trees and existing Edwardian hospital buildings. Features from the existing buildings such as chimney pots, finials, quoin stones, and copings will be re-used. As at the Olympic Park, most of what is on site will remain there - if only transformed into paths, sub-base etc.
The site had been an inaccessible block, fenced off, between halves of the Cashes Green community, and in opening it up there is real opportunity to combine place-making with our collective aim of promoting conviviality and a transition towards ‘one planet living’. Part of the site had previously been allotments, and our plan was able to conserve as much as we could. The allotments have already been re-occupied by locals growing their own food. That was last summer and well in advance of the the contractors starting on site a couple of weeks ago. Existing plum trees with fruits of various hues are being conserved, too - they were heavy croppers last year and , I must say rather tasty!
As at the Triangle, water is handled through surface drainage via dishes channels and swales and harvested water is impounded. At the heart of the scheme, a residents’ garden is bordered by small patio gardens. A surprising departure from the Triangle is key fob access to the garden for residents only. The planting is much more lush - with a series of terraces planted with a mix of aromatic shrubs and fruit plants like black currants and redcurrants. The ‘borrowed landscape’ of the garden is an extension of the private patios set behind hornbeam hedges and pleached lime trees. A heavily planted street is intended to help ‘absorb’ the cars, according to Engleback.
After the Kevin event, I was able to have a good wander. For several years running now, the UK-GBC stand has been a focal point for activity with an increasing number of its members taking adjacent stands to create a bit of a buzz. It seems to work. I couldn’t resist snapping this picture of Paul King in his elevated meeting room where he reigns over the stands.
ZedFactory had its usual prominent stand, featuring its latest offering ZedLife - a foray into transport with PV bike racks and kiosks. There is a plan to prototype a kiosk in Brighton, where the recently rejected PortZed will be taken to appeal. Bill retrieved his stands from customs at 4am on the Tuesday of Ecobuild, just back from China.
During the last hour of Ecobuild 2012, it was refreshing to happen upon Liz Male PR’s tea party on her Ska-rated stand complete with hanging plants. With the assistance of Grigoriou Interiors (one of the developers of Ska Rating), Liz undertook to ‘ska rate’ her entire stand - quite a feat for a temporary installation. Wonder how many others at Ecobuild can claim that?