IO4: Importance of Outside Space

Published on 5th September 2020 by Wendy Perring

The importance of having access to outside space for our mental health and wellbeing has been well studied in recent years; from parkland to the small urban courtyard and larger rural gardens. Whilst it might not always be practical or possible to have a large garden, including some oasis and connection with nature is something we feel passionately about and we believe that this should be accessible to all.

When designing our multi-unit housing developments in Enfield, London, our designs were focused around including some outside space for each home. Each unit has a south-facing external private courtyard accessible from the ground floor living accommodation. The homes are designed to maximise access to natural light and views and to expand the feeling of space on what is a tightly constrained site. It was important for us to prove that affordable projects, often with restrictive sites and challenging budgets, are still able to enjoy these simple but important qualities.

The New Forest House, which is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of size and budget from the Enfield developments, is set within a peaceful unspoilt woodland clearing in the heart of the New Forest National Park. The home offers a seemingly perfect escape from the world, but in reality, it was through clever design that this idyllic setting was achieved.

The home is located a stone’s throw from the motorway. An essential aspect of the design was to mask the traffic noise and be as low carbon as possible. Provision for a basement (due to planning constraints on the mass and footprint) and the clients’ dream of having a natural swimming pond necessitated lateral thinking regarding the excavated earth removed. This was repurposed to create an earth-berm at the entrance of the home. This worked on many levels, aesthetically it buries the house into the ground on the north side, it assists with insulating the home and dramatically reduced embodied carbon during construction as the removed earth would have been traditionally transported off-site to landfill. Most importantly, however, the earth berm worked to shield from traffic noise to the north. In contrast, the south elevation is more open, with expansive panels of glass overlooking unspoiled views to woodland and beyond. A wooden terrace leads directly from the house to a natural swimming pond teeming with dragonflies and pond plants. The connection with nature is intimate and the landscaping around the building is left wild and untouched.

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