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BBLBnews / Issue 5 / Summer 2010

Vision / Commitment / Skills & Expertise / Delivery

BREEAM Excellent commercial Building

The first phase of Earlsdon Park masterplan in Coventry is now complete, and has already earned a Built in Quality award

Planning Policy Key figures in Midlands’ residential sector discuss potential implications

Also Inside: London Array Operations Building for E.ON Hemp - how can it be used in the construction industry? HealthTec, a new innovation for Walsall



Focus on Residential Issues currently facing the Residential market are stifling the sector’s ability to address pent up demand and drive the sector forward. Terry Bolton, Partner

Demand In our experience underlying consumer demand for new housing remains. However, despite price falls, it is obvious that increasingly restrictive borrowing criteria continue to stifle first time buyer access to the housing ladder and first time buyers are crucial to opening up the market. The banks and mortgage lenders are impeded by the cost of their borrowing – borrowing at short term rates to lend long term – there is a £300m ‘hole’ which until recently the government was plugging with ‘quantitate easing’. This has now ceased leaving lenders in a very difficult position.

Land The expected ‘fire sale’ of cheap land resulting from the credit crunch as has occurred in previous recessions has not happened this time. Firstly, owner’s expectations of value have not moved to reflect current reality. The banks have been reluctant to crystallise their debt when their borrowers have gone into receivership/administration because of the impact on their balance sheet. Meanwhile the major house builders have painfully written down the value of their land banks and thus are not willing to pay pre crunch (high) land values. This however, brings us back full circle to land owners’ now inflated land value expectations.

Private Sector Housing We are seeing the major players slowly returning, and the sector is starting to pick up. Understandably but perhaps somewhat disappointingly, their aspirations are a little timid and conservative, with very few 3 storey houses, or flats and nothing particularly contemporary, reverting back to traditional 2 storey design and 2/3 bed terrace or semi detached houses and 4/5 bed detached. In fairness this probably more closely reflects peoples (buyers) aspirations. However, it is unfortunate that the opportunity has not been taken to be more adventurous, after all the numerous television housing programmes have surely identified a strong demand for contemporary design.

Affordable Housing Affordable (social) housing pre crash had largely ended up being delivered to R.S.L’s by private house builders as part of S106 agreements with levels of provision stipulated

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as part of the Planning Consent. Thus, many R.S.L’s had stopped, or severely reduced, their own building programmes. Following the credit crunch with the virtual cessation of private sector house building, it was inevitable that affordable housing would also diminish to a trickle. This has prompted many R.S.L’s to resurrect their building programmes. Of course there is an inevitable time lag involved in getting back up to speed and this is reinforced by the comparative shortage of available land and the expectation of land values of land owners (see earlier). The whole process is further exacerbated by the reduction of grant levels to R.S.L’s by the HCA. This has prompted R.S.L’s to investigate alternative funding models to bring forward development, including building private market sector housing, to use the profits to part fund affordable provision. The question arises as to whether they have the expertise and mechanisms in place to compete with the major private sector house builders.

Housing Cost The cost of housing is being inexorably driven up as a result of a number of factors. The continuing issue of contributions, currently in the form of S106 contributions, to be either replaced or supplemented by CIL’s. There is talk now of the imposition of minimum sizes for houses – no doubt a good thing but still with cost implications. And of course, we have the imposition by the previous Government of criteria to deliver zero carbon dwellings by 2016, together with the requirement by many Local Authorities for the provision of on site renewables (the ‘Merton’ rule). All of these carry cost penalties. The previous government’s own figures suggest an additional £25,000-£30,000 build cost to achieve Sustainable Homes Code 6 for a two bedroom house. Therefore, if the cost of building and enhancement of standards of houses is to increase and the desire to keep down the sales value of housing remains, the only element providing flexibility to achieve these aims is the cost of land. Is, then, the further reduction in land values at the necessary level of availability to meet demand realistic or achievable? In summary: the flickering pulse of the recovering housing market needs every encouragement. Are we optimistic, in light of the issues discussed here, that such encouragement prevails?

Carbon Trust zooms in on Local Service Centre Stoke Local Council’s Local Services Centre building secured a Carbon Trust grant at design stage to help fund the project and was part of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme. The Carbon Trust has produced a short film about the Local Service Centre which is featured on the Carbon Trust website.

More information available at:

BBLB architects worked closely with the City of Stoke on Trent and the Carillion design team to help provide the city with a sustainable environmentally friendly building that demonstrates the use of low to zero carbon technology and considered passive design measures which have helped the LSC achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating from the BRE.

Welcome to the summer Issue of


We hope that you will enjoy reading this issue of BBLB News. In addition to pieces about BBLB and our projects we have also included articles about topical subjects which we hope will be of interest to you. If anyone else in your organisation would like to receive a copy please let us know. If there is anything you would like more details on, or you are interested to find out more about how BBLB could assist you with current or upcoming projects, please call Debbie Ward on telephone: 01384 880550.

The Old Library, Hagley Road Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 1QH Telephone: +44 (0)1384 880 550


Award winning home for government department The BREEAM Excellent offices at Earlsdon Park in Coventry are now complete, with the scheme winning a Built in Quality Award in the Commercial Category. The QCDA Headquarters building forms part of the first phase of BBLB architect’s masterplan for Earlsdon Park in Coventry and at the recent Celebrating Construction awards evening the BBLB/Sisk team won a Built in Quality Award for the delivery of this BREEAM Excellent office scheme. Earlsdon Park is a high quality mixed use development located near to the city centre fronting the Butts Road. It is a 10-storey commercial building providing approx 84,000sqft office space, 8,400sqft ground floor retail/café space and a 500 space multistorey carpark which forms a podium acting as external terrace for the office floors above. The building sits adjacent to the locally listed 1930’s former Technical College which still houses an art deco two storey 650 seat theatre. A new pedestrian street has been

formed between these two buildings linking the public frontage of the Butts Road through to a landscaped courtyard beyond. Within the building the ground floor retail element of the scheme engages with this new street, and a double height colonnade provides a sense of enclosure, definition and shelter. Internally the office space wraps around a central atrium which allows natural light and ventilation deep into the building. The atrium also facilitates heat recovery and helps to heat or cool the building as necessary. This key feature forms an integral part of the sustainable strategy which lies at the centre of the design and has contributed to the building’s BREEAM Excellent rating. Other sustainable features include a ground source heat pump, night time purging and rainwater harvesting.

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Hemp - A Miracle Crop? Hemp is one of the fastest growing biomasses - Hemp lime is a composite construction material that is becoming financially viable as a low impact, carbon-negative, sustainable form of construction. Hemp’s high percentage of cellulose makes it the number one producer of biomass on earth. Wood from most trees registers less cellulose and takes much longer to mature. Hemp can grow from germination to maturity in 3 to 4 months and produces up to 25 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year. Hemp grows best in warm, humid areas but only requires a bare minimum of 10 inches of rain and a temperate climate which means it can be grown on vast portions of the earth’s land surfaces. For a crop, hemp is relatively environmentally friendly as it requires few pesticides and no herbicides. And we can keep growing it every year. ƒƒ With so many different uses and the ability to replenish vital nutrients to the soil rather than strip them, hemp could make the difference between bankruptcy and prosperity to farmers in many countries. ƒƒ Hemp could have a major impact in our growing construction industry by replacing or supplementing everything from fibreboard to concrete. ƒƒ Hemp could be part of the answer to petroleum dependance for everything from plastics to fuel ƒƒ Using hemp would also reduce our consumption of cotton. Cotton uses a large proportion of the U.S.’s pesticides, damages the soil, uses over twice as much water to grow and produces less than half the crop of hemp equivalent. ƒƒ Hemp has great value as a source of nutrition for humans and an even greater potential as feed for animals. Each of these uses could easily be enough to make hemp a valuable crop. Combined they make it impossible to ignore, yet it seems that to date we are pretty much doing just that.

Hemp in the Construction Industry Hemp lime is a composite construction material that can be used for walls, insulation of roofs and floors and as part of timber-framed buildings. It provides very good thermal and acoustic performance, and offers a genuinely zero-carbon contribution to sustainable construction. Hemp masonry is breathable and is able to absorb and emit moisture, leading to much healthier buildings. Hemp lime provides a form of construction that can be built onsite quickly and efficiently or prefabricated offsite, allowing conventional mainstream builders to incorporate the materials into their normal practices with little

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adjustment. Having a low impact, carbonnegative, sustainable form of construction that can be used in volume house building or even multi-storey office blocks, factories and warehouses is an exciting development that provides a genuine solution to demands for zero-carbon construction. The most typical form of hemp lime construction uses conventional timber frames with panels constructed of timber studs, and the hemp lime cast around the frame to create a solid wall. There is often no need to use timber sheathing boards, breather membranes, internal finishes like plasterboard and external cladding which can make normal timber frame construction rather complicated.

The hemp lime provides a solid wall, acoustic and thermal insulation, and even an internal finish. Weather protection of the hemp lime is needed to shed precipitation and this can be provided by different finishes, including lime render, lapped timber boards, shingles, rainscreen tiles or lime-mortared brickwork. This uncomplicated method can reduce labour costs, speed up construction and simplify the building process. The carbon sequestration and storage capacity of hemp lime is a significant benefit of the material. As government policy becomes increasingly concerned with reducing carbon emissions and finding more efficient ways of meeting current targets, hemp lime can make a major contribution to this, offering a genuinely zero-carbon contribution to sustainable construction policies. Hemcore ( have been working closely with Lime Technology Ltd

(www.limetechnology. and Lhoist UK ( to promote a proprietary brand (Tradical) for what they have called ‘hemcrete’ construction. Lime Technology Ltd has set up a factory in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, where the Tradical lime binder is being manufactured. This means that these companies can offer the supply of UK manufactured materials whereas previously the technology and materials were imported from France. Lime Technology Ltd uses the registered name Hemcrete® but the hemp shiv aggregate and the lime binder are now referred to as Tradical products. The Renewable House built by Linford Construction at the BRE Innovation Park has been created to demonstrate that mainstream affordable homes can be constructed from renewable materials, meeting both housing demands and environmental targets. A key building material was Hemcrete®. Hemcrete® is an established walling material for carbon negative highly thermally efficient walls which has the following advantages over traditional building materials: ƒƒ Hemcrete® absorbs CO2 in its manufacture and so has a negative embodied CO2. For a typical wall section Hemcrete® will have an eCO2 of 130kg CO2/m2 less than traditional brick and block. ƒƒ Hemcrete® is highly insulating resulting in thin walls with a very low U value ideal for meeting the higher levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes. ƒƒ Unlike other insulators Hemcrete® also has thermal inertia similar to thermal mass and so houses built of Hemcrete® change temperature very slowly reducing heating loads significantly below lighter weight buildings with the same U value. Source for much of this article is: Hemp lime construction - A guide to building with hemp lime composites by Rachel Bevan and Tom Woolley. Published by IHS BRE Press and available from: Images reproduced with courtesy of Lime Technology:


London Array - Dong Energy, E.ON and Masdar This Operations and Maintenance building, designed by BBLB architects will provide an operational facility for the London Array Offshore Wind Farm. The new building, designed to BREEAM Excellent, will provide a facility for the control, operation and maintenance of the wind farm. London Array will be constructed in two phases. The first 630MW phase will consist of 175 turbines, generating up to 630MW of electricity. This is enough to meet the electricity needs of over 470,000 homes – two thirds of the homes in Kent. The distinct architectural concept has been designed specifically around the exposed marine conditions and driven by positive sustainable

Community & Leisure

measures. The maintenance building and offices take advantage of natural light and incorporate MMC, extensive grass roof and CHP. When fully operational London Array will make a substantial contribution to the UK Government’s target of providing 15.4% of all electricity supply from renewable sources by 2015. It will also avoid the emission of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life. The new Operations and Maintenance base will be located in the Port of Ramsgate.

London Array will make a substantial contribution to the UK Government’s target of providing 15.4% of all electricity supply from renewable sources by 2015.

Dorrington’s Horseshoes The Horseshoes Inn is an 18th Century Grade II Listed Coaching Inn located in Dorrington, Shropshire. The refurbishment and extension of the pub was completed in April and reopened to the public on St Georges Day, 23rd April 2010. The property comprised a collection of 18th and 19th century buildings which have evolved and extended in a piecemeal way throughout its 200 year history. Our challenge was to enhance the setting of the building, re-plan and refurbish the interior spaces and extend the lounge and bar areas in order to meet the aspirations of our client, Village Green Inns Ltd.

The re-planning of the interior, to make more efficient use of the space and exploit the siting, included reorientation of the lounge and bar areas to overlook and integrate with a newly created landscaped courtyard and garden with views out towards the Shropshire Hills. The rooms on the first floor were completely refurbished to provide five double bedrooms, each with an en-suite. Staff accommodation was provided on the second floor. The Village Post Office was relocated from an outbuilding to the rear and placed within the main building fronting onto the main road.

BBLB News 5


Potential Planning Policy Changes, what would it mean for the Residential sector? Britain’s housing market is failing to meet the nation’s needs, so a panel of experts were asked to judge if the Conservatives’ planning reforms offer solutions. Alun Thorne of the Birmingham Post hosted the Round Table which was organised as a result of BBLB’s concerns of the effect of draft policies being issued by the Conservatives.

RG: (Galij was equally concerned that development activity would be sharply curtailed, by the ‘localism‘ approach.) The Green Paper proposals are far too radical. We all want less red tape, but you do need a formal planning structure within which everyone can operate. TB: Exactly. We need a ‘looser’ system, but it has to be hung upon a national framework, otherwise you‘ll end up arm-wrestling with planning officers on issues of aesthetics. EC: We are already seeing how planning staff, who are there to provide objectivity and balance, trying to become so inclusive that they end up with fifteen different views on an application. JT: Everyone pays lip service to the need for affordable housing in rural areas, but already we can see that in one district people fully support development, but in the next village, there is equally strong opposition to the building of homes.

The debate veered from criticisms of the Green Paper, to a critique of the present planning system, and back again. SL: I suspect the idea of localism has drawn on the experiences of Germany and Switzerland, where a local approach has worked. JA: The Tories are promising more than they can deliver, because their ideas don’t take account of local authority planning boundaries, and we don‘t know how many houses we need. We know what assumptions Gordon Brown made to calculate housing growth, but we have no idea what assumptions the Tories will use. If you don’t have five-year land plans, how do you know what you are trying to achieve? JT: There is also an assumption that all people want to buy their own homes, which certainly isn’t the case. JB: We can see why the Tories want to introduce planning reform, because the current system is too bureaucratic, stifles development and is far too complex. EC: It’s about development control, not about delivery, at the moment. There should be a presumption in favour of planning proposals, unless they are demonstrated to be unacceptable, at least that is what you are taught in college. Unfortunately, in the real world, many local authorities have a presumption against development, even though that is what drives our economy.

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RG: The government is obsessed by tinkering with the planning system. It tries to be too inclusive, and makes too many revisions of earlier legislation JA: The Green Paper talks of consensus, but that is an ideal which will never be achieved. The idea that applicants could ’buy off‘ their neighbours is equally odd, and a nightmare waiting to happen. RG: Under those circumstances, I think a developer’s tool-kit would have to include shelves of brown envelopes. If everything in the Green Paper was implemented, nothing would be built. We would move from a planning landscape dominated by NIMBYs, to a BANANA republic (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Me). JA: I think the paper’s core problem is that its authors assume planning is black and white, whereas it is many shades of grey. Planning is about opinions, and interpretations, and weighing up the pros and cons. When you are involved in community engagement, you can never get full agreement - apart from the basics, that grass is green and the sky is blue. These proposals have been devised by focus groups to appeal to voters in the SouthEast, they are simply hunches about what will appeal. If the Green Paper was implemented, local politicians would have incredible powers, and I think it’s quite possible that councillors would refuse applications, because of the level of local opposition, knowing the plans would be approved on appeal.

TB: Will the Green Paper become reality though, or is it simply an inspirational document which will be forgotten...? JA: I think they (the Conservatives) now realise there is an awful lot of stuff here which will never work. I suspect they now see this as a starting point. They want to change from top-down to bottom-up, whereas they should be looking for a blend. At the moment, they have lots of ideas, but it’s like a jigsaw with pieces which don’t fit together. Whatever system they adopt it will need some element of central control, above the new local structure, to make it work. As so often, politicians see a weakness, but attack the process, not the product. RG: I believe they are now starting to describe the Green Paper as a ‘conversation’, as opposed to a strategic blueprint. Let’s hope it is a conversation in which we, and the rest of the property community, can play a full part.

SL: Simon Linford, Founder of C-Zero JA: John Acres, Planning Director, Catesby Property Group JT: Jean Teichmann, Head of Development, Wrekin Housing Trust JB: John Bradshaw, Partner at BBLB architects EC: Elle Cass, Partner, King Sturge RG: Robert Galij, Planning Director at Barratt Homes TB: Terry Bolton, Partner at BBLB architects A longer version of this article was published in the Birmingham Post in March 2010. Thanks go to Alun Thorne for allowing use of this text.

BBLB INhouse

Staff Profiles


Rebecca Hall

Architectural Technician

Etone College, Nuneaton A new Post 16 Centre at Etone Technology Language Applied Learning College is on site in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The scheme is being built on the college grounds and will enable the delivery of a variety of Post 16 courses, for learners in North Warwickshire. The £6.1m development has beendesigned to high sustainable environmental standards with a view to achieving BREEAM Excellent and will have the capacity to accommodate 250 students with the possibility of future expansion. The school’s brief included wanting “a brand new, state of the art facility, which will respond to the educational, social and economic challenges of the 21st Century”. The centre will embrace new technology,

be flexible and be built to reflect the strong family and community ethos of the college. The exemplar facilities will include Technology studios, Performance Arts suite, cutting edge Business facilities and ICT suites with Media Production capabilities. Thomas Vale has now been appointed as contractor by the school and BBLB has been novated across to complete the working drawings. The project has recently started on site and following further analysis of initial framework choice, steelwork options are being coordinated as an alternative to a concrete frame. The project is due to be completed by late April 2011 and be ready to accept students from September 2011.

Favourite piece of Architecture Frank Gehry’s works make my heart race, in their built form but also on 2d plan, I love how the Bilbao Guggenheim looks like a flower. Why I joined the Industry I had finished my A levels and been offered a place at art college, with a few more weeks of ‘freedom’ before the course commenced they sent us some homework in the post. So that was it, with my youthful wisdom I thought employment would be easier than doing a bit of homework! So I got a job as a draftsperson in a timber frame design office and set out upon a journey that has brought me to BBLB.

Community & Leisure

Richard Bailey Architect

Myplace, Walsall Walsall Council has appointed BBLB to assist them in delivering a ‘World Class’ youth facility under the Government’s ‘myplace’ initiative, on a site at Joseph Lecke. It is currently subject to confirmation of £1.287m of BIG lottery funding. The new building is a two-storey stand alone building located immediately adjacent to a new school. It will provide flexible spaces for training and a variety of activities as well as a health clinic. Local young people have been consulted on the scheme, indeed many of the facilities have been proposed by them. The creative and

flexible design aims to inspire young people to get involved with the centre, and be an integral part of the activities and create its own unique community identity. The new scheme will deliver an attractive and safe place for young people to go in their leisure time where they can get involved in a wide range of exciting activities and enable more young people, particularly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, to participate in positive activities that support their personal and social development.

Favourite piece of Architecture I am torn on this one but have narrowed it down to two. As a student I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Lloyds Building in London which was a fantastic experience. The attention to detail is fantastic. Rogers even designed the lift controls to fit with the whole building aesthetic. A great example of macro to micro design. A few years ago I visited Barcelona and was totally bowled over by the temple of Sagrada Familia, the as yet unfinished pinnacle of the career of Antoni Gaudi. Even as a building site the scale and symbolism combined with intricate detailing was amazing. We plan to return in 2012 when it is due for completion.

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New Project Wins

health & education

HealthTec, Walsall Walsall HealthTec will be a 14-19 centre specialising in Health and Social Wellbeing diplomas. Whilst the HealthTec idea exists in other locations this will be the first purpose built facility in the country. The project is a £5.5M, 20,000sq ft scheme, that is being built using the SCAPE framework with Willmott Dixon as Contractor. The brief to BBLB is to produce an award winning, sustainable building that is BREEAM Excellent and in particular focuses on maximising carbon reduction. The new HealthTec scheme is to be built on a section of the Alumwell Business & Enterprise College site. The Skills Centre will provide facilities for use by all schools in Walsall and it is expected that the range of accommodation

to be provided would support other curriculum activities in the secondary, primary and special sectors. The HealthTec in Walsall will offer learners of all ages and abilities opportunities to develop enterprise, IT, personal, learning and thinking skills through ‘Hands on Health’ experiences, - vivid simulations which replicate real life situations in health and social care. It provides opportunities to enhance the curriculum offer in science, personal, social and relationships education as well as new 14-19 qualifications including diplomas in Society Health and Development, Public Services, Business Administration and Finance, Hospitality, Sport and Active Leisure and Information Technology.


Church Stretton School & Community Sports facilities The new Church Stretton Leisure Centre provides a wide range of modern, state-ofthe-art facilities including a multi-purpose, four-court sports hall, a fitness suite and dance studio and associated dry-side and community changing areas. The outdoor facilities include five school/ county grade tennis courts and a new MUGA, 40m x 30m with floodlighting. The school has a new main entrance with reception and associated staff offices, and a general purpose meeting room that will be available for various courses and also community hire. These new facilities are all

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linked internally to the existing swimming pool area by an exhibition space where local artists will have the opportunity to display their work. The scheme combines the needs of the school and the town of Church Stretton with the intention that both the indoor and outdoor sports facilities will primarily be used by the school during school hours but would be available for use by the local community at other times. Additionally the existing caretaker’s bungalow has been converted and refurbished for the Busy Bee‘s Nursery, with re-siting of the existing nursery building to the east of the caretaker’s bungalow for use as a children’s centre.

In addition to the Walsall myplace project we have also recently won the Leicester myplace scheme with Miller Construction. The myplace scheme will revitalise the Haymarket Theatre in the centre of Leicester with a grant of £5m from the BIG lottery and a further £1.5M from Leicester City Council. Leicester City Youth Hub will consist of six themed zones, each offering different activities and spaces where young people can meet. Activities on offer are anticipated to include a climbing wall, roller-skating, sports area, performing arts space, recording studio, dance and aerobics rooms and a youth disco. The project, led by Leicester City Council, aims to bring young people aged 13-19 together from diverse backgrounds, including those facing challenges such as lack of confidence and self-esteem, social isolation and discrimination.

Eco Hybrid & Industrial Units BBLB are part of the Miller Construction team that Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council has commissioned for the Design and Construction of six Hybrid Units comprising ground floor warehouse space and first floor office space and 16 industrial units (total GIFA approx 40,000 square feet) at Greenfields Business Park. The project is currently on site. The units will have the following key sustainable features: Timber Cladding, Sedum Roofs, Renewable Energy including roof mounted wind turbines (hybrid units only), Passive Ventilation and Permeable Paving. The scheme is targeted to achieve BREEAM ratings of “excellent” for the Hybrid Units and “very good” for the Industrial Units. William Saunders is the Employer’s Agent on the project.

STOP PRESS We will be updating our website in July - please take a look, we would welcome any comments and feedback. Printed on 50% recycled paper

BBLB News Issue 5  
BBLB News Issue 5  

Information on our new BREEAM Excellent Commercial Building at Earlsdon Park in Coventry. Also implications of planning policy in the reside...