Journalist Laura Evans reports on Kevin McCloud’s award-winning eco-friendly social housing project, The Triangle.
Built on a former caravan site in Swindon, The Triangle is Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud’s new sustainable social housing venture. Collaborating with Glenn Howells Architects and landscape architects Studio Engleback, McCloud’s company Hab Oakus has created a bold new model for the future: 42 eco-homes that are built around a bio-diverse ‘village green’, encouraging the concept of sustainable, shared living.
McCloud says the project is not about “landmark architecture but liveable architecture” and the design complements this philosophy. Based on 19th-century Victorian railway cottages, the houses are triple-glazed, have eco-roofing, rainwater harvesting systems, cork floors and special eco-cooling systems – all part of their desire to get people reconnecting with the values of previous generations.
Landscape architect Luke Englebeck of Studio Engelbeck, said: “I wanted to create a sustainable retreat with edible gardens and edible streets. It was important to maximise space in the public realm – often in social housing the landscape is neglected and there is leftover unused space, I didn’t want this to happen.”
He went on to say: “We looked at every element, ways to maximise diversity and self-sustaining food production – how everything could work together.” This can be seen through the two kitchen gardens, which give residents the opportunity to grow their own; the central area with it’s storm proof wet land (the water stored then comes out of handpumps, which the children can play with); and other elements such as, bio-porous fences, car parking spaces carefully concealed by fruit trees.
McCloud described the process as working ‘bottom up’ – trying to figure out how to give people the best quality of life, within 100 square feet. Architect Glenn Howell said that their vision was to create, “excellent ordinary houses”, adding: “We wanted to take the traditional terrace house and explore it, make it rich.” The hope is that, by providing residents with the tools to live sustainable lives – two kitchen gardens, a bio-diverse village green, a car share – they will.
Perhaps an unlikely destination for an eco-project, Swindon was chosen because of its ‘average town’ status – demographically speaking it’s representative of the whole of the UK. It’s interesting to note that all the residents of The Triangle have been relocated from within two miles of the project and so far their enthusiasm for their new homes is palpable. The first of a series of projects, if The Triangle works it could be an exciting model for the future of shared living and sustainability. Either way, it is definitely one to watch.