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    School expansion programme in Croydon adversely impacts local resident

School expansion programme in Croydon adversely impacts local resident

We were recently approached by a Croydon resident in desperate need of some assistance and advice regarding a planning proposal for a school extension adjacent to her home.  She has lived in her family home for 20 years and has never been adversely affected by the neighbouring primary school, with the main school building standing almost 30 metres away.  However this balance is set to come to an abrupt end following a controversial planning decision by Croydon Council to allow a significant extension.
Three-storey extension…
The proposals consist of a multi-storey extension to the existing school building, rising up to three-storeys high to allow the capacity of the school to almost double from 240 to 420 pupils. The new building(s) will extend to within 5 metres of the homeowner’s house. A new stepped walkway will direct all these new pupils along side the boundary of the house, and new outdoor play areas will be formed on raised terraces.  In response the homeowner has expressed deep concerns about the impact that these proposals will have upon her amenities, and questioned whether the planners and councillors had given these issues thorough consideration.

 
Inadequate information…
I was initially asked to review the design information submitted by the developer to help the homeowner understand the proposals better.  This was not an easy task, sifting through dozens of drawings, hardly any of which seemed to demonstrate the relationship between the house and the proposed extensions.  In fact I discovered that the few drawings which did show the homeowner’s house only showed the house in outline, as a faceless building without windows or features.  In some cases the outline was even drawn inaccurately, or missing altogether.  In my opinion this was a serious oversight, and […]

By |December 2nd, 2013|Article|1 Comment|

Designing for children with autism

Last year we completed the Children’s Neurosciences Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital.   This multi-million pound clinic facility was built for the assessment of children and young adults diagnosed with a wide range of severe behaviour problems: some subdued; some highly intelligent; some severely disabled and others requiring speech and other therapies.  The clinic facilities include assessment and observation rooms with live-feed monitoring systems, medical examination rooms and specialist therapy rooms.  There is also an independent, self-contained sleep assessment clinic, aptly named the “Sleep-over Hotel”.  There are extensive support facilities for the staff which include state-of-the-art conference suite, training rooms, meeting rooms and offices.

The facility was officially opened by Rt Hon John Bercow MP (Speaker of the House of Commons) and Patricia Moberly (former Chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’). Mr Bercow’s son had been a patient at the centre, and said that the new facility “respected” autistic children like no other facility.  He went on to say, “My son was treated by Professor Gillian Baird in the old unit at Guy’s Hospital, so I see first hand the difference it makes.”

Gillian Baird (OBE), Professor of Paediatric Neurodisability, also paid tribute to the people present who had been key to the success of the project.  “Staff and designers worked with patients, families and experts to create the perfect environment for the children, many of whom have autism spectrum disorders or physical disabilities.”
Patient sensitivity…
Former and existing patients were also present at the opening, some of whom had been consulted by our design team at several stages of the design process.  The feedback they provided at key stages in the design development was particularly valuable as research in the field formed an essential part of our design […]

Sustainability and existing buildings

Can existing buildings be made to be sustainable?  Of course they can be, but unfortunately people often look at dilapidated and under-used existing buildings and assume that the most sustainable and environmentally friendly solution would be to replace the building with a new, modern building.  This approach can of course have it’s benefits; the building can be built from the ground up using the latest technologies and methods, making it easier to achieve the highest standards of energy efficiency.  It can also work out to be a more cost effective approach.  However, sustainability is a complicated issue which demands that we consider the entire life span of a building when deciding the most responsible approach to building.

Many modern buildings are built with construction efficiency, energy efficiency and cost efficiency in mind.  Their intended life cycle may not span beyond 60 or 70 years, but this can still be justified as a sustainable approach for new builds.  However, many older buildings were designed with longer life spans in mind, using a selection of durable materials that were not chosen for their sustainable credentials, such as solid brick, concrete, or stone.  There is a huge amount of embodied energy in well-constructed, old buildings so it would be irresponsible to demolish them if their lifespan can be extended significantly further unless the building cannot be adapted to fulfil current demands.
Unlocking the potential of existing buildings…
We specialise in adapting existing buildings.  We’ve learned that maximising the potential of an existing building requires resourcefulness and innovation, and when we succeed we discover that these buildings can perform beyond many people’s expectations. We’ve created high spec environments in existing buildings which boast dramatically improved energy efficiency, generously sized spaces, intelligently controlled […]

Are you considering self-build?

Over the past couple of years the government has been actively encouraging the growth of self-build housing.  The UK lags behind it’s European counterparts as far as self-building is concerned, with only around 10% of new homes being self-built or custom built in the UK, compared to around 50% in some European Countries.  However, the number of self-builds being carried out in this country is rising and this trend is set to continue with the government’s support.
What is self-build?
Self-build can be interpreted in a number of ways.  Essentially it involves you, the intended occupier, taking full or partial control of the build of your new home.  It can literally mean that you design and build most or all of the house yourself, or you might appoint a contractor to build your house, or you might opt for an off-the-shelf approach such as a ‘kit-house’.

I would describe myself as an aspiring self-builder in the more literal sense.  I am currently building a two-storey side extension and single storey rear extension to my existing house.  I’m taking on as much as I can myself; excavation, foundations, bricklaying, carpentry, plastering, etc.  There are of course some jobs that I cannot and should not take on myself, e.g, electrical or gas work, but these days there are numerous websites that give budding self-builders or DIY enthusiasts easy-to-follow guidance about specific trades or skills.  In the near future I plan to take on the bigger challenge of building my own house.  If you’re also considering this then there are some great websites which I’d recommend looking up as they specifically cater for serious self-builders.  These include the Self Build Portal,the Homebuilding website and the National Self Build Association.
Initial Obstacles…
These […]

Working in Healthcare

The Patient Path often begins by referral from a specialist or unexpected accident or emergency. The patient will usually arrive with preconceptions and fears, so first impressions should ideally be welcoming and calming, whilst giving security, trust and reassurance in the quality of care provided by the hospital.

Transitional spaces such as corridors, waiting areas, play areas, reception areas and external spaces can have uses beyond their primary function, in that the space can be used to influence the mood of the patient or visitor immediately before or after they enter the treatment zone. Therefore, when designing these environments we have to first understand the spectrum of users passing through the space, so that we can create an environment that is tailored to their likely emotional or psychological state.

The stage of observation, investigation and diagnosis is vital in order to arrive at the appropriate course of treatment and programme of care. Information gathering, tests and scans can be intrusive, painful and frightening because of the physical process, followed by the anxiety of waiting for results.

The form, internal arrangement and construction of the space will primarily reflect the functions and equipment used, whilst consideration also needs to be given to combating the potential stress and anxiety in the patient.

Day-patients will receive direct care in the Consulting, Treatment and Minor Ops Rooms. Inpatients and some emergency patients would be moved to a ward to await or monitor their treatment or to recover from an operation.

The design and arrangement of each ward will vary considerably for patients; for example some will need isolation for infectious diseases, or shared wards for easier monitoring of patients recovering from surgery. Over the years wards have changed in size and gender allocation, […]