Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects eBook

December 5, 2014

front page of book

With almost 20 years in architectural practice, we felt it was an appropriate moment for us to collate our thoughts into a book.  In it, we describe our approach to architecture using projects we have completed and conceived throughout the last 20 years; deciding which of our many projects to include involved a great deal of soul-searching!  We do hope you enjoy our story.

You can download your free copy by following the link below.

Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects eBook

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Team Davy Smith: 32nd Windsor Half Marathon for CRASH

September 29, 2014

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Congratulations to our seven strong SDPSA team who completed the challenging 32nd Windsor Half Marathon on Sunday 28 September 2014.  The weather was uncomfortably warm and sunny, apparently the hottest and driest September on record, and the course a little more hilly than anticipated.  However, despite the conditions the team achieved very impressive sub two hour times.

Our team were running to raise funds for CRASH the construction and property industry’s charity for homeless people.  ‘…a practical charity that focuses on improving the buildings used by homeless people.’

If you’d like to show your support for this worthy cause, you can sponsor us here for the next month.

Or, if you are really keen and would like to take part next year, keep an eye on the website above for application opening dates next year.

Team Davy Smith: Standard Chartered Great City Race 5km

July 11, 2014

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Congratulations to all 15 members of the Stephen Davy Peter Smith architects running team who completed this years Standard Chartered Great City Race.

With more than half of our office running, it really was a team effort across a full spread of abilities; pre-race preparation ranged from four 5k runs a week training, to a couple of stretches before the starting pistol.

The cool dry weather was perfect for running-jogging-walking.  The atmosphere was  noisy and exciting and  all agreed it was an amazing experience, for a great cause.

This years worthy beneficiary of the 5km run through London’s Square Mile is Seeing is Believing ‘a charitable initiative which helps tackle avoidable blindness around the world’.

If you would like to help raise money for charity by taking part in next years race, applications open in January 2015.

Ice skating at Tower of London Ice Rink

December 5, 2013

We had fun at the annual office ice skating trip at the Tower of London Ice rink last night.

No injuries to report, apart from the odd blister.

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Helping RSL clients to excel in private housing: in practice

August 15, 2013

“By challenging the RSL’s approach to affordable housing we helped our client evolve a high quality planning scheme, greatly exceeding their expectations of what they believed was possible”. Stephen Davy – Director


Planning permission has just been granted for 43 homes on the former Livity School site for a residential redevelopment in Brixton, London for RSL client Genesis Housing Association.  On the face of it, this is an interesting, but not remarkable achievement.

What is unusual is that within the London plan compliant split of 50% private sale, 50% affordable, revenue from the private sales will be used to fund the affordable housing.

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Genesis Housing Association had a wealth of experience in the affordable housing sector, and indeed entered the private-rental homes market in April this year after launching a report with the Smith Institute on the future of housing associations called ‘Social Hearted, Commercially Minded: A Report on Tomorrow’s Housing Associations’.  According to Genesis, the reportexamines how housing associations have to strike a new balance between their social purpose and commercial activity as a result of the changing policy and economic environment”.

The title of the report summed up our challenge.  To design a scheme, which would add significant value to the private homes and maximise profit, which would be used to subsidize the affordable homes, but without alienating the client by pushing the RSL too far out of their comfort zone.

Merely upgrading the affordable specification was never going to be enough and we explored a variety of ‘value adding’ options. We developed a brief and specification for the private sale homes, which went far beyond upgrading an ‘affordable’ brief; it challenged the RSL to bravely consider private housing layouts far outside their ‘affordable’ comfort zone.

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Out went the affordable floor-to-ceiling heights and in came double height spaces.  Interiors with spatial interest were created out of a brief, which included the need to reduce common areas.  Standard mid-range kitchens and bathrooms were rejected in favour of high-end, beautifully crafted units.  Oak engineered timber floorboards lie across the living areas, with Italian large format porcelain tiles to the kitchens and bathrooms.  Under floor heating at ground floor reduces the removes the need for wall cluttering radiators and is complimented by generous full height doors.  Thoughtful architectural gestures demonstrating great attention to detail, even at planning stage, feature throughout and include oak window seats in the dining room and matching oak clad staircase

Externally, panels by the communal flat entrances have been crafted from individual handmade terracotta blocks forming a 3D geometric design based on the client’s logo.  The same design also features on the steelwork screen and gate to the communal area.

We communicated our ideas for the design and specifications clearly and simply, providing evidence of what had been achieved on other private schemes, and sharing our ideas using sketches and 3d models to demonstrate to the client that they could achieve a higher quality than they imagined. Critically, we were able to convince the client’s sales team that a more architectural approach would increase saleability and profit, which could be channelled back into the affordable element of the scheme.

This is an imaginative scheme for an RSL client to undertake.  We are grateful to our client for trusting us to take them beyond their comfort zone, the resulting scheme is one that both we and our client will be proud to put our names to.

This may not be 100% affordable housing, but with deep cuts to the government’s financial support of social housing, it is certainly one way to help fund it.

Livity was granted planning permission in July 2013 and is due to start on site in September 2013.  We would love to hear about your affordable or private housing schemes, if you have any queries, or would like to speak to us about this, or another scheme, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Converting offices to residential: in practice

July 8, 2013

“It appears that so long as you stay within the use class boundaries, you would be permitted to convert an existing office building into a rabbit warren of tiny homes, with no affordable provision and minimal levels of space and light.  That can’t be right.  Can it?”  Peter Smith – Director

Following quite a bit of discussion and analysis in the press, on 30 May 2013 the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 was amended.  For the next three years only, converting Class B1 office buildings into Class C3 residential homes (change of use and internal alterations) may not require planning permission.  Prior approval from the council is required, and if they consider that the scheme would create a material change in the character of the local traffic, or that the site has flooding or contamination issues, they may still require a planning application.

Associated external building works will also still require planning permission, these might include façade alternations, balconies and a new entrance, as illustrated on another of our proposed office to residential conversions at Quest House, Croydon. http://www.davysmitharchitects.co.uk/projects/1512/.

Quest House

Quest House

So what are the ramification of this new and temporary legislation, in practice?  We are currently undertaking a feasibility study on an office building in North London for a private developer.  The scheme has thrown up a number of interesting but as yet untested issues.  Assuming we receive prior approval from the planners (and not withstanding Building Regulations compliance) it appears that conversion within permitted development removes the need to address the following usual planning considerations:

  • density of development,
  • provision of affordable homes,
  • local authority minimum space standards for new development,
  • Mayor’s London Housing Design Guide minimum space standards,
  • local authority preferred mix of homes (studio – family accommodation),
  • Code for Sustainable homes including minimum daylighting levels
  • section 106 contributions,
  • payment of the Mayor’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

From a developers perspective, the prospect of a permitted development office conversion sounds too good to be true,  even our client was skeptical.  Along with the rest of the design team we looked for the ‘catch’, assuming that there would be some loophole the planners could use to assert a bit of planning authority,  but to our surprise we all came up empty handed.  Indeed, there appears to be no planning restriction preventing our client from cramming his floorplate full of private homes, with no minimum space or daylight standards to adhere to, and without having to make any statutory contributions, financial or otherwise.  As a developer of high quality homes, this was not a route our client wished to pursue, but that’s not to say there aren’t other developers who will.

This apparently unrestricted development opportunity also appears to be completely at odds with the current shift towards larger brighter homes, as championed by the RIBA campaign for better new build homes at www.withoutspaceandlight.com via @BeHomeWise.

It is unclear what will happen, but as prior approval applications start to pile up on the desks of planners, it seems unlikely that office to residential conversions will be permitted to continue without further restrictions being imposed.

Too good to be true? Long-term, it probably is.

Were getting there, but we’re not quite there yet…

June 13, 2013

Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects are working on some blogs, which we will be posting soon.  If there are any particular subjects which you would like us to tackle, please do not hesitate to let us know.

In the meantime, you can follow us on twitter @SDPSArchitects and visit our webpage at http://www.davysmitharchitects.co.uk to stay updated.