As the Australian Urban Design Initiative continues to gain momentum Down Under, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in England has shockingly lost government funding through the Comprehensive Spending Review which has seen massive cuts across the public sector. However, despite the funding cuts, CABE continues to champion good design through the delivery of many of its programs for the immediate future.
This month CABE celebrates the 2010 Building for Life Awards. The winners have been selected from a record 55 new housing developments that have achieved the national standard for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods across England. This year, standard achievers range from a 32 home self build scheme in Bristol to a 1,200 home multi-developer scheme in Bedfordshire. In a vintage year for housing design, ten exceptional new housing schemes have been selected for a Building for Life award.
Led by CABE and the Home Builders Federation (HBF), Building for Life is the national standard for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods. New housing schemes that score more than 14 out or 20 against the Building for Life criteria are recognised with a silver standard in recognition of their commitment to design quality and those that score more than 16 achieve gold.
And it’s not about simply building houses. To achieve the standard, schemes need high quality open spaces in order to be attractive, functional and sustainable places where communities are proud to live. The 20 criteria exemplify places with distinct character; mix of tenure and house types that meet local needs; decent landscaping providing homes with green, open spaces and streets designed for people and cyclists – not just cars – with shops and schools close enough to walk to.
For example, Watercolour, in Redhill, by Linden Homes and John Thompson and Partners, has exceptionally strong landscaping that sets the scheme apart. The reed beds, SUDS and lagoon on the former quarry site create a strong sense of place, as well as obvious environmental benefits. The scheme provides variety, with terraces of town houses formally arranged along the canal and more informal, lower density housing arranged around a series of open spaces. Mature trees and landscape features have been retained and innovative planting provides character.
To learn more about this year’s winners visit the Building for Life website at www.buildingforlife.org
For over a decade, CABE has championed good design in new housing, public buildings, streets and open spaces. While it comes as a surprise to see that no resources have been allocated from the Culture department to deliver the English government’s commitment to this area of public life, CABE is currently looking at options to create new ways to support and champion good design. We hope the Australian Urban Design Initiative will continue this legacy, champion good design, and inspire others to do the same.