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Great Bow Yard

Evaluation

Character

The design evolved from the sustainable principles of the development and the architect has made the most of the materials and 'green' elements of the homes to give Great Bow Yard a highly distinctive character.

Two terraces are lain out to face the southern sun for passive solar gain. The sunspaces, large timber louvers and solar thermal panels along the North Terrace blend function with distinctive form, creating a rhythm of shadows and lines across the elevation. On the East Terrace, galvanised steel and timber balconies and reclaimed brick with timber cladding provide a varied façade. The balconies are large enough for two to sit out for dinner or just to enjoy the sun and views - most have been individually decked with planters and seats. 

The backs of the terraces are not forgotten, however, with small slatted timber louvers shading the rear bedroom windows of the East terrace from the morning sun and increasing privacy. The rear of the North Terrace includes garden sheds and rainwater harvesting tanks beside 'front' door porches. These front doors are actually at the back of the homes, which enables semi-private front gardens to get the full daily sun.

The central garden space provides a beautiful place for residents to relax and mingle among abundant plants and trees. When the warehouse conversion is completed, the offices and restaurant will keep the adjacent site active and lively during the day.

Roads, parking and pedestrianisation

The narrow site entrance gives intriguing side views of the East terrace with North terrace in the distance and a slim width causes cars to naturally slow down. Public and vehicle accessed areas are delineated by hard surface block paving which leads into the converted warehouse area. The paving is without curbs, so a shared surface is created for cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Timber bollards and a line of stone setts delineate a small buffer along the frontage of the East Terrace.

Car parking is limited to one space per home to encourage use of public transport and cycling. Units on the East Terrace have integral garages while gravel surface parking court is provided between the two blocks, both for visitors and for the north terrace dwellings. In addition two disabled parking spaces will be provided beside the commercial space and restaurant/cafe.

The shared garden space is overlooked by terrace frontages and balconies and the parking court is in view of windows on both gable ends, as well as the rear entrance area of the North block. So the place feels secure but friendly for residents and visitors alike.

Design and construction

The design is a positive response to the plot, with the terraces fitting into the shape of the site and orienting both towards the sun and beautiful riverside views. Townhouses in the East terraces are designed with flexible utility/storage/office rooms on the ground floor, with bedrooms on the first floor and a 265 sq ft living/dining/kitchen space on the top floor to maximise daylight, heat and the best views out the garden, river and hills beyond.

The north terrace has sun spaces at the front for passive solar gain and is built with dense blockwork clad in a timber rainscreen. This means that the homes are thermally massive, to retain heat in the winter and cool in the summer. The East terrace is masonry on the ground floor (to mitigate against flood risk) and pre-assembled timber frame on the first and second floors. The timber panels were manufactured offsite for fast building on site and to minimise site defects. The timber frame cavities were filled with insulation made from recycled newspaper and provide up to three times the insulation levels required to meet regulation U-values for thermal performance.

By buying a property, tenants automatically own a percentage of a communal management company set up by SWEH. Tenants contribute via a service charge to pay for contracted maintenance. Residents also look after the 'ecological' garden themselves and have added touches such as a barbecue area and a grass lovers seat in the last year.

North terrace houses incorporate rainwater harvesting tanks, with water used to flush downstairs toilets and solar thermal panels are fitted to many units. All units are pre fitted with cabling to allow owners to add elements such as photovoltaic panels as and when they can afford them.

Environment and community

The scheme achieved an Eco Homes rating of 'Excellent' primarily through:

  • Passive-solar thermally-massive design and lightweight timber frame construction;
  • the use of a sustainable drainage system (SUDS);
  • the creation of a wildlife habitat;
  • integral sunspaces;
  • toilets flushed by reused rainwater;
  • water heated by solar panels;
  • use of reclaimed brickwork and lime mortar;
  • maximum daylight designed into units;
  • super insulation within cavity walls using recycled newspaper;
  • the use of sustainable and locally sourced timber;
  • Materials specified to create a low toxic environment and 'A' rated appliances.

The site is minutes away from the town centre which, in combination with a local bus service, reduces the need for car use.

The 12 units are in a variety of sizes to cater for families and individuals. The design is built around maximising quality of life for residents and heating bills are kept low by the high insulation levels and solar heated water. The small site provides good amenity, with an overlooked garden space for residents and a mixed use commercial and café/restaurant space to add to the employment and the service offering of Langport, as well as keeping the site lively during the day.

Key information

Location

Langport, Somerset

Region

South West

Award

2007 winner

Date Completed

1 January 2008