For sustainable SFH, in-between spaces are as important as the homes

For sustainable single-family housing, Jo Cowen Architects explain how in-between spaces are as important as the homes.

The Pavilion at Present Made of Eddington, sustainable living designed by Jo Cowen Architects | BTR-News
The Pavilion at Present Made of Eddington, sustainable living designed by Jo Cowen Architects.

It’s undeniable that the pandemic is changing the way architects approach residential design. Lockdown had many positive impacts in terms of the reduction of pollution and simplification of our lives and were all part of that real benefit in the quality of our urban environments. We utilised local greenspace more than ever before, and our keen focus on living sustainably has had a significantly positive increase.  

By Jo Cowen, CEO, Jo Cowen Architects

We have all become environmentalists, and eco-friendly, low carbon options are more and more appealing when it comes to making choices on how and where we live, and I believe this is becoming a key factor in terms of the homes we choose.

Jo Cowen, CEO, Jo Cowen Architects | BTR News
Jo Cowen, CEO, Jo Cowen Architects.

This green focus extends to the impact that integrated nature in our homes and local areas has on our wellbeing. Given the importance of the outdoors in promoting mental, physical and community health, it is unsurprising that the number of those making use of green spaces has surged during lockdown. Statistics post-pandemic exposed that one in eight people live in homes without access to private amenity.

All of the above reasons are why consumers want housing that promotes wellbeing, multi-dimensional family living and community cohesion. At Jo Cowen Architects, these aspirations, as well as a connectedness to nature, form the primary narrative for our designs for Present Made’s debut development in the University of Cambridge’s Eddington 150-ha masterplan.

Present Made of Eddington development | BTR News
Present Made of Eddington development.

Present Made of Eddington is a purpose-built single-family housing community of nearly 370 new homes. Designed to Code 5 for Sustainable Homes, sustainability is embedded at every stage of Present Made’s housing offer.

Present Made is looking to reduce the development’s footprint by using modern methods of construction (MMC) to deliver its homes and sourcing locally produced materials with strong sustainability credentials. The company is also targeting a net zero operational carbon model as part of its wider ESG-driven strategy.

Rear view of Present Made single-family Build to Rent homes - Apache Capital | BTR News
Rear view of Present Made single-family Build to Rent homes.

In practice, this net zero operational carbon target means balancing carbon emissions in the long term through innovative design features like natural ventilation, daylight optimisation and rainwater harvesting as well as integrating smart technology into the homes.

What is outside the homes is just as important as what is inside them. That is why the £160m development is threaded together by living streets and other green infrastructure as part of a ‘people before cars’ design philosophy. Putting people before cars also has a knock-on effect on an area’s desirability, by creating vibrant neighbourhoods that have a genuine buzz and interactivity to them.

The Green Spine designed by Jo Cowen Architects | BTR News
The Green Spine designed by Jo Cowen Architects.

As we move away from multiple car ownership and to more active travel modes as part of our transition to net zero and greater focus on public health, all housing-led schemes should prioritise creating landscape-led active travel routes to local amenity, schools, shops and employment.

Eddington’s living streets are also home to public bookcases, a cycle café and zero waste exchanges, which are just some of many design features to encourage residents to get to know their neighbours by engaging within shared spaces. 

Aerial view of Cambridge | BTR News
Aerial view of Cambridge.

With a third of those born today now expected to grow up in rented accommodation, the next generation of rental housing has to be in places that truly benefit their residents, our children and our community. Fundamentally, that means designing neighbourhoods that have community, sustainability and wellbeing genuinely at their core. 

So, as architects, we need to design housing that also considers not just the quality of the home but also the quality of streetscape and local green infrastructure. The spaces between homes are just as important as the homes themselves. These in-between spaces are critical to engendering a genuine community by creating chance interactions and encouraging healthy, sustainable lifestyles by supporting active travel and exercise.