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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 031 - Engaging the street with environmental design

031 - Rowan Road, Merton

There is a common misconception that a conflict exists between the principles of good urban design as set out in UDC1 and an optimal approach to environmental sustainability in terms of orientation, size of windows, materials or visual attractiveness.

Crest Nicholson and Sheppard Robson Architects came together as consortia in the Design for Manufacture competition to explore ways of delivering high quality, environmentally sustainable homes, in unique and identifiable places. The consortia secured three of the 10 competition sites, gaining a better understanding of the potential of their product and its contribution to place-making with each response.

At Rowan Road, Merton, their innovative proposals clearly illustrate how homes can be designed to high environmental performance, with maximum internal comfort, whilst contributing positively to the streetscape. Many of the homes incorporate photovoltaic (PV) panels that partially form the roof structure. The efficiency of the PV panels is maximized by the PV roof’s independence from the building form, setting them apart by the introduction of a roof terrace below. This enables solar orientation to be optomised whilst building fronts engage with the street as required to provide strong frontages and urban spaces.

The innovative design of the roof lantern to many of the homes allows natural day lighting and ventilation to the centre of the dwelling. The day lighting achieved through the lantern means that south-facing windows can be rationalised, reducing solar heat gain without detriment to the internal space. The facades have been adapted, utilising ‘pushed out’ bays on the north and east facades to maximise winter sun and ‘pushed in’ bays on the south and west for shade. This helps create visual interest and variety to the street.

Connectivity between the occupied open-plan space, the stairwell and the roof lantern during the day ensures optimum ventilation in warm, still, summer conditions. The inherent qualities of the roof lantern mean that housing types can be used at any orientation across a site with no negative effect on the internal day lighting and passive environmental system. Refuse is piped to the renewable fuel-fired district heating plant in the area. Combustible waste is recycled as heat and food waste is composted into soil.

Other Information

  • Location: London Borough of Merton
  • Project Team: English Partnerships; Developer - SixtyK, Crest Nicholson; Architect - Sheppard Robson
  • Contact:


UDC2 Section - Integrated Design

Environmental strategies at Rowan Road are incorporated into the building design.Images (image bank)