Abbey Housing Association
Unit Construction Co
Southwark Borough Council
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In 1980, the Abbey National Building Society decided to put 'building' back into the Building Society movement, and run a housing competition for at cost sale in Crystal Palace. They asked architects Darbourne and Darke (Award winners themselves from 1969 to 1981) to write the brief, who suggested the centrepiece of the competition should be fuel efficiency.
So for the first time the now familiar concepts of affordable housing and energy conservation were linked in a design brief. And the winning scheme, by the young team later to be known as PCKO, came up with the first mainstream use of passive solar building for housing, with two storey triangular conservatories transferring radiation to a high mass wall acting as a heat store; and careful internal planning to derive maximum benefit from the building's orientation.
The substantial nature of the development - 16 houses and 30 flats - meant that it became the subject of a 12 month monitoring project, involving interviews, questionnaires and modelling studies. This found that without the special features of the design the cost of space heating would have been 30% higher. Nor was this performance at the expense of occupant comfort. There was little reported overheating, and the building was most valued for its character, strongly influenced by the feature of the conservatory.
With today's rocketing fuel prices, residents have good reason to be thankful for the foresight shown by both Abbey National and the architects, who went on to win two further Awards in 2003 and 2005. And now that the planting has matured, and damped down any summer overheating, the special character that made it a winner in 1987 is stronger than ever.