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BPR to design prototype homes for affluent mid-lifers

Birds Portchmouth Russum has been appointed to design innovative housing in sensitive sites across the UK. It was chosen from a list of 17 practices by new housing company Mullion, which aims to produce intelligent homes for the affluent middleaged which can also function as lifetime homes, offering the necessary facilities as they grow older.

Costing between £400,000 and £600,000, the houses will have home automation systems, controlling audio, TV, video, security systems, lighting, electrically operated curtains and blinds, CCTV and room temperatures. Every house will have a 'smart room' which can be used as a home office, art and craft studio, guest bedroom or day room.

Sizes of the houses vary from 220-285 m2 , and Mullion's managing director Michael McCarthy estimates that the 'intelligent' aspects of the design cost 'tens of thousands of pounds'. The same features which will offer luxurious living to the middle-aged and mobile will make existence easier for them in their less mobile later years.

The first development, due to start on site this week, is the creation of seven homes within the old Bibury Stud in the Cotswolds. Initial design was by Sidell Gibson, but BPR is doing the detailed drawings. The next site, at Lytham St Anne's, was acquired with planning permission for five houses designed by Hodder Associates, but Mullion is considering how it intends to adapt the designs.

BPR's first full-blooded involvement is at Brackley Lodge in Northamptonshire, a group of Grade II*-listed buildings which formed the subject of the competition that BPR won. It is now working up its winning scheme to form the basis of a planning application for nine units in a few weeks' time.

Stairs are of particular interest to McCarthy, who has asked BPR to 'work up a series of sculptural staircases in wood, steel and glass'. Although two of Mullion's three current sites involve existing buildings, McCarthy has others in the pipeline and says: 'I would like to build a whole series of modern houses in the next five years that start using materials not used in houses in the UK before.' He believes that the affluent mid-life people who are his target consumers will welcome building in steel and glass, and he has asked BPR to design a Mullion prototype house 'which we hope to repeat up and down the country'.

McCarthy, who was previously managing director of retirement-homes company Pegasus, also hopes to build high-quality retirement housing in central London.

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