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18/01/2011
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Accordia

Cambridge

Accordia

Evaluation

Character

The grand Aberdeen Avenue, with its attractive belt of trees, provides a central spine and axis into the site.  The main façade on Brooklands Avenue is a high value addition - varied, up-to-the-minute and both grand and discrete. Use of a common local-style brick creates coherence across the scheme and different types and tenures help to ensure a good mix of residents. The layout is legible to visitors, and for pedestrians and cyclists the permeable layout is fully negotiable, but vehicles movements are more hierarchical.

The enclosure of public space is relatively good in affordable housing and generally good in market housing which has façades of double-sided buildings addressing public space. Garage doors in mews sometimes present blank façades but a variety of unit types and upper floor windows provide overlooking for social safety. Carefully preserved mature trees and water courses have been made accessible by providing footpaths around the site. Landscape architects Grant Associates' creation of five principal landscape spaces are designed to support the overall design concept of 'living in a garden'.

Roads, parking and pedestrianisation

Accordia displays a welcome openness and, due to the road pattern, the retention of trees and boundary walls and the use of typical local materials, fits well into the area. The rectilinear road layout creates street enclosure, but is restricted to a single entrance/exit to the north with some vehicular permeability within the scheme.

New 5-bed houses face Brooklands Avenue in a neighbourly manner but behind railings which reduce social contact. Vitality is improved by entrances to adjacent apartment blocks which have been pierced through the retained boundary wall.

Walking is well supported through new footpaths and new cycle-ways links to a Sustrans route have been allowed for. Deeper within the scheme, building layout provides a permeable network but traffic impact is increased by closing possible connections. All affordable units have parking, 30% have garages, other parking being allocated on streets and in courts, and all market units have garages or covered parking (the largest 40 houses having 2-car garages). All dwellings have good secure bicycle parking for residents and visitors. 

Mews streets look attractive with a half-metre of private space usable for planting. Affordable housing offers some blank walls to parking courts, and units facing Kingfisher Way have an elevated footway protected by railings because the road level has been lowered for access to sub-ground level parking in the private apartments opposite. This unusual arrangement reduces social contact but creates opportunities for residents to personalise the footway outside front doors.

Design and construction

Designs are particular to the scheme and display the individual architects' signatures, with a rich mix of high quality materials and forms within a clear regulating concept of heights and massing. With relatively shallow plot depths, private outdoor space is created at several levels through courtyards and terraces, and generous glazing makes for light interiors giving on to public and private space. Most units could easily be converted to Lifetime Homes Standard.

In larger houses 'live/work' activities can be accommodated in rooms above garages and by cabling in bedrooms. Concrete pre-cast floors, party walls with light steel frame infill and moveable partitions in market units allow for change of use and provide flexibility, and disabled users' needs are also addressed. Affordable units feature a strong design element with mono-pitch roofs and projecting windows and feature the same brickwork as market housing; their garage doors, paid for by the Housing Corporation, match those in private units.

Careful attention throughout to basic construction details and insulation means performance is good. The scheme significantly outperforms the 2002 Building Regulations, high SAP ratings being combined with good standards of air tightness and careful detailing to avoid cold bridging. These measures allow for the effective integration of renewable energy technologies in the future. High thermal mass provides cooler dwellings in summer, flat 'living roofs' are sedum-planted for high insulation and runoff management.  

Environment and community

There is excellent access to all facilities with the city centre (1.3 miles away) via good public bus services on Brooklands Avenue and Shaftesbury Road, and the main Cambridge rail station is only half a mile away.

Accommodation, which includes 30% affordable housing, ranges from one-bed accessible, affordable flats to luxurious 5-bed courtyard villas.

A seven storey building planned on Aberdeen Avenue will provide one shop which will also serve the neighbouring DEFRA building. Street layout, along with public spaces, will generally enable socialising, but the amount of garaging, some with automatic doors, will make the street scene less vital. 

Over 700 mature trees have been supplemented with additional planting, and the scheme provides three times the open and wooded green spaces compared with developments locally, with the added amenity of a number of play-spaces. Some shared communal areas are exceptional, particularly one shared garden with imported pleached pear trees. Drainage measures such as permeable surfaces, sedum roofs and reed beds help retain rainwater on site to sustain the extensive landscape resource.