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Farmstead-like development for adults with autism completed by Haverstock in Surrey

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The Linden Farm supported-living development of 10 homes is designed to provide an exemplar non-institutional environment for adults with autism

The project is intended to create a nurturing and secure environment that also forms an integral part of the wider community.

It was initiated against the background of a chronic lack of high-quality residential provision for adults with special needs across the UK, particularly those with autism. It also reflects the government’s Transforming Care Programme, launched in 2015 to help child and adult services to work together, ensuring adults with special needs can stay close to their families throughout their lives.

The siting of the buildings near the village of Alfold is adjacent to ancient woodland and enjoys views to the south. The architect took the typology of a dispersed farmstead, with 10 homes accommodated across five individual ’cottages’, including two- and three-person shared units. There is also an activity centre on site with sensory, therapy provision, an activity hall and staff areas, while staff bedrooms allow overnight care.

A structure was chosen for cost efficiency and for its lighter environmental footprint compared to concrete or steel, with offsite construction ensuring a faster build programme and less waste. The decision to leave the CLT partially exposed internally was also intended to provide a warmer non-institutional aesthetic to the interior spaces.

The design was developed after extensive consultation with clients, stakeholders and the public, and post-occupancy evaluation is currently underway. 

0795 sk haverstock linden 076 a

Architect’s view

There is a wonderful feeling of calm and wellbeing at Linden Farm. This is partially to do with the location, which is the beautiful village of Alfold in Surrey. However, the architecture plays a big part in adding to this sense of calm. How has this been achieved? The exposed visual CLT walls, large windows, high ceilings and a restrained palette of natural materials all contribute to the quality of light and feeling of space.

It is this sense of calm and wellbeing that helps create a homely environment that is ideal for people with neurodiverse conditions. It was designed for young adults with autism but in reality, the resultant design would suit people with a range of additional needs.

The entrance hallways are my favourite spaces and despite difficulties with the budget, and numerous rounds of value engineering, we managed to keep the large frameless rooflights. We worked hard to reduce the visual ’noise’ and to create a domestic feel, with careful consideration to the lighting, and creating views to the wider landscape. The durability yet perceived softness of finishes was at the forefront of every decision.

We worked closely with Surrey Adult Care Team and the M&E engineer to develop the brief for the lighting strategy, which includes:

  • Slow rising light levels with no immediate ‘on-off’ response
  • Flat ‘touch’ surface light switches with slow response
  • No PIR (automatic) light controls
  • Circulation lighting to be dimmable at night.

At first glance, the kitchen layouts perhaps look rather odd. However, they were carefully developed through numerous client engagement meetings to agree the most appropriate and safe layout. This includes:

  • The bespoke oven arrangement, which is at eye height and with worktop space either side to allow carers to stand either side of the client
  • A robust tap with separate handles, that are easily identifiable as hot and cold
  • All white goods to be loose (ie not integrated) so the fridge and freezers are easily legible
  • Different locations for the dining table are offered, giving the residents choice to either view the window or door into the room.

There is telecare technology in all of the living spaces, which allows the staff to discretely monitor the residents. The telecare detectors monitor movement, which send alerts to staff tablets and this is particularly useful at night, when staffing levels are reduced.

Kate McGechan, project architect, Haverstock

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Site plan

Client’s view

It will be an amazing, beautiful place to live and we are sure our young people will be very happy. It looked fantastic on paper, but in real life it was quite stunning! Such care has been taken, with the lovely wide hallways and large rooms, the play area and activity centre with the soundproofing and sensory room, and the tree planting.

Parent of Linden Farm resident

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Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site November 2015
Completion May 2019
Form of contract Traditional (with two-stage tender)
Construction cost£5.5 million
Architect Haverstock
Client Surrey County Council
Structural engineer Integral
M&E consultant Ingine
QS Playle & Partners
Landscape consultant Breeze
Project manager Surrey County Council, Oribis
CDM coordinator Goddard Consulting
Approved building inspector Waverley Borough Council
Main contractor E W Beard
CAD software used Revit

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Environmental data

Annual CO2 emissions 87 tonnes (regulated)
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >2% 34 per cent (CBDM principle activity, residential spaces and bedrooms), 39 per cent (CBDM principle activity and living room spaces)
Percentage of floor area with daylight factor >5% 10 per cent (CBDM principle activity, residential spaces and bedrooms), 13 per cent (CBDM principle activity and living room spaces)
On-site energy generation percentage 8.4 per cent
Annual mains water consumption approx. 45.5m3 (per resident/overnight staff), 16.5m3 (per day staff)
Airtightness at 50pa 3.8 m3/h.m2
Annual heating and hot water load 270 kWh/m2
Overall area-weighted u-value 0.28 w/m2k (average)
Design Life in years 50
Embodied carbon 331 KgCO2eq/m2
CO2 emissions 43 KgCO2eq/m2/yr

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