“Thank you for giving up your Saturday morning to come and look at pictures of dilapidated houses…”
The latest get-together for the Design Team took place in the familiar surroundings of the backroom of the bakery, and kicked off with Marianne and Helen, our Urbed architects, sharing some pictures and the findings from their recent visit inside the terraces with the surveyor.
Overall, things look pretty good. Or, if not exactly good, they’re not bad at all… There’s some roof damage, and the outriggers have taken a bit of a hit, but the structure is generally sound and some nice original details have remained intact.
Marianne noted that there was quite a spectrum of care across the different houses. Some had been worked on in the last 10 to 20 years, others probably hadn’t been touched for 50.
“My mum and dad had spent a lot of money putting new stairs in”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, seeing the pictures and hearing Marianne’s thoughts also sparked people’s own memories and stories of their own houses that had been lost to the Housing Market Renewal Scheme. By sharing those memories, the importance of this work is emphasised; the recent history of our neighbourhood gives this group a particular responsibility to make something exceptional of these houses.
The Energy Hierarchy
“We can literally insulate people from the rises of fuel prices.”
As we moved onto the second phase of the meeting, looking at the energy plans for the terraces, the focus remained on the building material. Marianne explained the importance on focussing on “Fabric First”, emphasising that the materials used for building fabric are key; there’s little point in putting solar panels on a leaky roof.
We learnt about the energy hierarchy (as shown in the picture above), and Marianne explained that the really boring thing about all this is that it’s basically common sense and attention to detail: use good, solid material and avoid showy “eco-bling” (meaning that we might pass on ornate mini-wind turbines…)
She continued by pointing out that addressing climate change has lots of positive everyday impacts as well as the *big ones* around saving the planet and our life on it (there’s definitely solid arguments for cheaper bills, the potential for democratic control that comes with using locally sourced energy, as well as better health from removing drafts, cold spots and damp, etc).
Ahead of the site visits that we’ll soon be making, we looked at a couple of case studies from other housing schemes. First, the Welsh Streets project in Liverpool’s L8, where the flats are quite high end and target the more luxury end of the market, and another project in Manchester, which had some interesting semi-communal outside space as well as upside-down houses!
Most of us hadn’t come across these before, but it’s perhaps important to say they’re not entirely upside down. Instead, they’re called that because the bedrooms are downstairs and the living spaces are on the upper floors to gain more light. In this case the kitchens were on the third floor. As we discussed, these might not be ideal when bringing the shopping home, but these houses could potentially be more accessible for people with mobility issues who require a carer.
“You don’t want to stop at our block. You want it to go down Oakfield Rd.”
The session ended with us looking through four options for the plans. With the CLT’s sister organisation Homebaked Bakery extending their production space at one end of the terrace and Homegrown, a business currently incubated by the CLT, potentially on the other end, we spent some time thinking about how much we could give to additional commercial space, especially in light of how much empty commercial space there already is on Oakfield Road, and the fact that funding for housing is much more readily available.
This was perhaps the moment when our blue-sky thinking started to cloud up a little, and the compromises towards realism that we knew would come started to be made. But Marianne and Helen had also made some interesting design offers for more flexible space on the ground floor, that could either be part of a bigger home or become a live-work unit. This could potentially allow the business plan to stack up and more commercial spaces to be available.
Additionally, we discussed how the CLT definitely has a role in providing support to local traders (it was great to have a local hairdresser join us for lunch and a chat after he’d popped into the bakery and Ang invited him to come and join us). This support could take the form of helping local businesses act collectively to propose plans for the area, but the practicalities of transforming Oakfield Terrace suggests that housing should stay the focus.
“It’s fitting houses and flats together like Tetris.”
Marianne and Helen had worked incredibly hard to put together four different options for us to consider – each with different ratios of standard houses, upside down houses, flats, live-work spaces, and winter gardens!
“There is a chance to make decent housing here.”
Although it’s surprisingly tricky to imagine how the 2-dimensional plans will transform into something that can be walked through, there was a clear sense of the choices that needed to be made and, by the end, it felt like there was a clear steer in the room towards one of the options. With this plan, there be five houses (some traditional, some upside down and some potential live-work units), an accessible two bedroom flat, one two-bed first floor apartment and one one-bed apartment.
Of course, this might all change after the site visit, but our plans are slowly settling into something more concrete (and very well insulated!).
As ever, I’ll finish by letting another member of the team introduce themselves. This time, it’s Sue.
All the different materials that make up the parts of a building’s structure that separate what’s inside from what’s outside; the windows, doors, roof, external walls, lowest floor, etc.
Housing Market Renewal Scheme
A controversial housing programme that ran between 2002 and 2011in north Liverpool (and elsewhere in the country) which aimed “to renew failing housing markets”.
Someone who is brought in to professionally examine a building in order to measure it and assess its condition.