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millennium village

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Setting the agenda for future urban development This six-page report presents the competition-winning designs for a Millennium Village in Greenwich, by a team including Ralph Erskine, Hunt Thompson and Battle McCarthy

Deputy prime minister John Prescott last week hailed the Ralph Erskine/ Hunt Thompson competition-winning masterplan for the Greenwich Millennium Village site as a showpiece of energy efficiency, new construction methods, enlightened tenure arrangements and ITlinked housing. Now the really hard work begins.

The mixed-use scheme, including 1377 mixed-tenure dwellings, is planned for a 13ha parcel of land on the Greenwich peninsula site, which will now become the subject of a joint-venture arrangement between the winning consortium and English Partnerships, which bought the entire 121ha peninsula site from British Gas last September. In a now familiar tight timetable, the first phase of development must be ready by the time the Millennium Experience opens in the Millennium Dome to the north of the site - by the end of 1999, just 21 months away.

Prescott said that the 'exciting' winning scheme was of the 'very highest quality of architectural design' and was 'an imaginative reponse to create a sustainable urban environment which can show the way that construction can work in the future'. This was a first step towards making towns and cities more sustainable, he said; although it signalled 'an urban renaissance', it was not the government's intention that this particular scheme should be a specific 'blueprint'. In April, however, English Partnerships will be announcing four to five further brownfield sites - believed to be in the Midlands and the North - to accommodate new urban villages. There is a chance that some of the impressive elements of the defeated schemes will be incorporated, but it is not clear whether a similar competition system will be used, or whether the unlucky three will have automatic inclusion in any shortlists.

The winning Greenwich Millennium Team consists of Taylor Woodrow, Countryside Properties, Moat Housing Group and Ujima Housing Association, with a design team led by Hunt Thompson, which managed the specialist input of veteran community architect Ralph Erskine. Two further practices - Baker-Brown Mackay and Cole Thompson, and engineering and environmental consultant Battle McCarthy - complete the line-up.

The winning entry (working name Greenwich Riverside) aims to achieve targets of an 80 per cent reduction in primary energy consumption, 30 per cent in water demand, 80 per cent recyclable building and zero CO 2emission. Off-site prefabrication of the building shell and fitout of interiors will lead to a 30 per cent reduction in construction cost, a 25 per cent shorter construction period, and 'zero defects at handover', it was claimed.

Taylor Woodrow chairman Colin Parsons said it would cost around £230 million to build. 'But there has to be a little profit for us, ' he added. Homes will cost from around £90,000 to £300,000, according to Alan Cherry, chairman of Countryside Homes.

ITterminals will be fitted in the dwellings as a matter of course, like water or electricity. These terminals will link up to a village-wide system to provide information on local transport - car use is discouraged, with parking below ground, and every dwelling is just two minutes' walk from a planned guided tram link or bus - as well as health and community services. The homes themselves are envisaged as similarly high-tech, with intelligent systems geared to control security, lighting, heating, entertainment, metering and communications.

Construction methods focus on prefabrication and open building systems, to give the owner-occupier maximum adaptability and flexibility if and when family situations change. More than 170 of the 1377 homes will be for rent, 54 for shared ownership and 40 available to local people on a flexible tenure basis. 'You won't be able to tell from the front door if it's affordable housing or not, ' said Anthony Dunnett, English Partnerships' chief executive.

The Millennium Village site includes an ecology park, 4500m 2of other uses including 'speciality retail', a cultural workshop, restaurants, studio offices, a visitor centre and a community teleservices centre. There will be a school, health clinic and community centre, as well as a 'visitor experience' with show homes, an exhibition and information trails. There will also be cycle lanes and sporting provision (a cricket/ football pitch), while the model shows a further sporting arena surrounded by grass banks.

Construction and London minister Nick Raynsford told the AJ that the elements of ingenuity in the winning scheme would be 'very closely watched' in terms of using them as exemplars, particularly the 'remarkable' energy-efficiency standards.

Even he wanted to live there, he said.

Ralph Luck, English Partnership regional director for the South-east, said there was now a plan for an exhibition of all four schemes to take place within the next six weeks. A venue has not been decided but it seems likely that Greenwich will be a favourite. The scheme will figure as part of EP's stand at the MIPIM property show in Cannes in March, 'to expose the lessons in terms of energy efficiency'. The aim is to submit a planning application around April, with a start on site envisaged next for autumn.

EPchief executive Anthony Dunnett said that over 400 parties initially expressed interest in the competition, which was whittled down first to 12 'serious' contenders, and then down to four last September. A panel headed by Stuart Lipton thought the winner the 'unanimous choice' although all four were of outstanding quality. 'They were stretching but realistic visions, ' he said, 'of a quality place to live and work.'The AJ was not, however, allowed sight of the judges' report.

Importantly, all schemes were fully supported by major financial institutions, said Dunnett, which was good news for the building community as a whole. And he was at pains to point out that the taxpayer would get a return on EP's £23 million investment to clean up the site. 'This is one small step for the development community, but one giant leap for financiers, ' he said.

The AJ understands that EP paid each consortium £25,000 to develop its proposals, but the actual amount spent was far higher. 'It couldn't have been less than £500,000, ' said one entrant.

The happiest entrant last week was Hunt Thompson. Ben Derbyshire was the lead player in co-ordinating the consortium's designs and presentation.

Bernard Hunt told AJ, 'The scheme is about making an urban place, rethinking what a home is, and how to make communities.

'Building in the city will only work if the housing is desirable. We hope our scheme will help people to discover a much better quality of life .' Part of that quality will come from a systematic attempt to facilitiesmanage the scheme after completion, taking advantage of the fact that all the dwellings will have their design details on disk. Repair, maintenance and change will in theory be handled via a central management resource.


The joint venture between English Partnerships and the winning consortium is not yet legally documented, but will probably be a deal in which EP contributes land, major highway infrastructure and services up to the edge of the site. The consortium headed by Taylor Woodrow and Countryside pays for everything else.

It pays an initial sum of money in respect of the land but EP takes future receipts on sales of completed homes and profit to be made.

EPis showing the Greenwich scheme - along with its work in Bristol, Speke Garston and the coalfields - at MIPIM, the property conference in Cannes. It hopes to show and promote the redevelopment of brownfield land and future opportunities to develop the particular sites, as well as demonstrating a new attitude to thinking represents a significant change in scale and substance, compared with the work for which it is best known - urban Band-Aid projects in which the scope for architectural thinking has been confined to the necessary but limited solving of the usual problems associated with failed council estates.

At Greenwich, employing Erskine's architectural philosophy, the practice can fulfil its potential.

The RIBA is planning a seminar on brownfield land, drawing on the example of the Greenwich peninsula. As part of the newly named 'Brownfield First' campaign, about energy-efficient and environmentally friendly design.

EPwill allow the winning consortium to 'draw down' land as needed, essentially in four phases of development. The eventual freehold will be owned by a trust, probably made up of the residents, the local authority, the Environment Agency, EPand the developer.

British Gas, the former owner of the 120ha peninsula, is entitled to 7.5 per cent of any future proceeds of any future sale.

This was a condition of EP's £20 million purchase of the site.

Land to the north of the Millennium Village site to be used for coach parking during the Millennium Experience will afterwards be used for 1600-2500 further the institute hopes to arrange the seminar in April, alongside English Partnership's Millennium exhibition.

homes, for which EP has planning consent.

A design competition is likely, says English Partnerships.

EP is looking at a revised masterplan - 'a technical in-house appraisal' for the peninsula, with the Dome remaining in place beyond the millennium. Uses are being discussed.

EP has spent £23 million on remediating (de-polluting) the competition site, but the figure includes levelling work, services and highway provision.

EP has pledged that the taxpayer will receive back more than the public-sector cost of preparing the site.

The density of the site works out as 172 habitable rooms per acre (425 per hectare).

The panel of judges, headed by Stuart Lipton, included Sir Phillip Powell, Sir Colin Stansfield Smith, Sir Jack Zunz, Prescott adviser and former EP chief David Taylor, and Richard Burdett, now at the LSE.

The steel structure is stabilised by lift/stair cores and portal frames, A primary tartan service route grid is provided within floor trenches along column grids, with power strips in the ceiling. Roof and cladding comprise a lightweight timber chassis to which glazing and red brick tile cladding panels can be attached. The panel works for every storey level. Bathroom and kitchen units are prefabricated The losing teams were, firstly, the star-studded Manhattan Loft/Osborne consortium - with Peabody Trust, Guiness Trust, Arup Associates, CZWG, Foster and Partners, Michael Hopkins and Partners, Zaha Hadid, Edward Cullinan, Ian Ritchie, Bennetts Associates, Pringle Richards Sharratt, Lifschutz Davidson, Caruso St John, Koski, Solomon and Ruthven, Branson Coates Schall, Davis Langdon & Everest, BWP and Knight Frank. The Barratt/Laing/Wimpey/Persimmon consortium comprised London & Quadrant Housing Association, Tower Housing Association, EDAW, PRP Architects, ECD Energy and Environment, Ove Arup, Allies & Morrison Architects and Fielden Clegg Architects.

Hutchison Whompoa consisted of Network Housing Association, Frankl & Luty, Cartwright Pickard, MBM Architects, Bill Dunster, Mott MacDonald, Buro Happold, Davis Langdon Everest, Hyder Consulting and National Energy Services.

The winning design is based on 'seven virtues': a mixed-use masterplan that works for people by reinterpreting the London square, giving pedestrians priority, and creating a well-tempered environment; creation of a virtual village with its own website; seamless flow of private and social housing; 'intelligent' homes; a model of environmental sustainability; low-cost, zero-defect, prefabricated homes; a programme to meet a December 1999 deadline Erskine seeks, in his own words, 'an architecture which finds poetry in the economic use of resources'. His masterplan, with its medieval street patterns, is fairly dense: 'Intimacy and identity form the basis for a sense of belonging and an informal social control.

Without this, public areas become noman's-land and thus no-one's responsibility.' All routes lead to the village centre, an oval space that acts as a hub for the scheme with a landmark tower (relatively low). Other features include a public park sheltered on three sides; car parking in podium garages under garden squares; complete accessibility for the disabled

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