Waugh Thistleton Takes on One Planet Living

view of commuinty

"Squeezed middle" affordable co-housing, wood prefabricated construction, and Bioregional: How many buttons can one project push?

There are many green building concepts and certification systems out there, but One Planet Living has always been one of the most interesting. It is not a checklist like LEED or a set of data points like Passivhaus, but a holistic look at how you live, showing that they are all connected.

One Planet Living

© One Planet LivingSo it includes the usual suspects like zero carbon and zero waste, while recognizing the importance of transportation, but it also takes food, water, culture, equity and even happiness into account. And when I first wrote about it years ago, health and happiness were at the bottom, not the top.

Waugh Thistleton interior

© Waugh Thistleton Architects

It is just one of the wonderful features of a new community that Bioregional Homes is building in Chobham, Surrey, in the UK. It's being built by a community land trust, where the scheme is owned and managed by residents. Sue Riddlestone of Bioregional Homes, a development spinoff from the Bioregional charity, explains:

Our vision for the site is to build homes for people on everyday salaries where it’s easy and convenient to make sustainable choices and for people to get to know their neighbours. This is a new model of property development and home ownership which we are excited to be pioneering. It’s early days, but there is such a lot of interest. We have been contacted by a number of community organisations and landowners and have half a dozen follow-on projects in the pipeline already.

In the design access statements filed with the municipality, they go into much greater detail about a model of development that is needed everywhere. "This scheme will help the ‘squeezed middle’ - those struggling with local market prices but locked out of social housing - with the opportunity to own their own home." But the discounts are somehow locked in for all future sales through the Community Land Trust "to secure the homes as a Chobham community benefit in-perpetuity." It is a form of co-housing, an "intentional communities, created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained, private home as well as a shared community space."


Waugh Thistleton via Surrey Heath Borough Council/Public Domain

But there is also an in-between space, described as a stoop, defined as "an area in front of each house within the landscape that has a different floor finish, identifying an area of ‘defensible space’ for each home." This took me right back to my school days and the work of Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger, who described the Dutch Stoep as an in-between space that was "a place of two spatial programmes, often indicating a meeting of private and public spaces, e.g. something like a threshold that, depending on how you interpret it, belongs more to the house or more to the street and hence is part of both."

site plan

Waugh Thistleton via Surrey Heath Borough Council/Public Domain

The site plan shows how you get the private areas in in the home, all looking out into the gardens, courtyards and common areas across the semi-private stoops. Sophisticated stuff.

And we are really just getting started, because all of this is designed by Waugh Thistleton Architects. Bioregional has always pushed the envelope with their architectural choices, starting with Bill Dunster at BedZed and going on to the late great Will Alsop for their big Quintain project. Waugh Thistleton are certainly cutting edge and are this writer's favourite British architects, but they are also more restrained and these buildings are far more conservative, and the heating systems are more likely to work.

life cycle analysis

Waugh Thistleton via Surrey Heath Borough Council/Public Domain

As expected, they are using off-site processes, building out of wood. "This allows us to build quickly and quietly, causing the minimum disturbance to the community into which we aspire to integrate."

The aim is to radically reduce energy use and subsequent carbon emissions, working within existing site constraints and ensuring systems are suitable and robust. Passive and low energy design principles have been utilised to reduce baseline energy demand and CO2 emissions followed by the application of low and zero carbon technologies.

House elevations

Waugh Thistleton via Surrey Heath Borough Council/Public Domain

It's all electric with photovoltaics on the roof, air source heat pumps, high performance walls with good levels of natural daylight, but not too much that there will be a summer overheating problem. It is also designed to be adaptable and flexible for future changes. And of course, "Finally, we wanted to propose a method that could be safely and efficiently taken down and recycled at the end of its life – although hopefully not for a very long time!"

The homes are also adaptable as 'Lifetime Homes' – "designed in such a way as to be adaptable throughout the life of a resident to support their changing needs should they become less able to move around the home or need the support of a carer."

One Planet Living is one of the most interesting frameworks for green building and green living. Co-housing is a wonderful alternative method of ownership and delivery. Waugh Thistleton do wonders with wood. What's not to love?