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Bluebird, Southend-on-Sea

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

SKArchitects’ Passivhaus project to help homeless people back into independent living with joy, dignity and charm wins the 2024 RIBA East Sustainability and Client of the Year Awards

Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D

2024 RIBA East Award
2024 RIBA East Sustainability Award
sponsored by Autodesk
2024 RIBA East Client of the Year

Bluebird, Southend-on-Sea
SKArchitects for HARP (Homeless Action Resource Project)
Contract value: £2.67m
GIA: 988m2
Cost per m2: £2,700

Bluebird is a project which brought a sense of joy to all members of the jury. This was coupled with deep admiration for the ambition and perseverance of a client and architect delivering a project of real social value, to the highest levels of sustainability and within the constraints of a limited budget. The scheme, for Southend-on-Sea charity HARP (Homeless Action Resource Project), provides 50 rooms for homeless people, together with communal facilities, as a step towards returning them to independent living. Its main new-build element is Passivhaus certified – a first for the client, architect and contractor. Embracing the design and construction implications of Passivhaus has paid dividends in terms of the evident quality of the internal environment and reduced running costs for the charity, enabling it to extend its services. For its residents it has created a place of quiet dignity, joy and charm.

  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
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Secure access is provided through an archway between terraced houses which have been renovated as part of the scheme. This entrance opens out to a new mews-style development that is developed to a high density and cleverly inserted into its back-of-plot site without imposing on its neighbours. The mews accommodation is grouped into six independently entered houses, each with a small, private patio, and provides simple, high-quality and dignified homes.

The combination of low two-storey buildings, small gardens, and the mews street itself, together with a small communal activity studio, ‘The Hive’, creates an environment of real charm. The design uses simple means – primarily subtle shifts in the colouration of the clay tiles that clad the buildings – to introduce a sense of rhythm, identity, and ownership to each of the houses and a playfulness to the overall scheme. This character is complemented by 500 bespoke tiles in the facade which are part of a community artwork programme engaging with residents and the wider neighbourhood.

  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
    Bluebird. Credit: Billy Haynes, Miru3D
  • Bluebird. Credit: SKArchitects
    Bluebird. Credit: SKArchitects
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Low-energy design has been delivered through the rigorous approach of Passivhaus certification, with the scheme achieving exceptionally good levels of airtightness. Material selection has also been carefully considered from an embodied carbon perspective, exceeding RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets. This has been accomplished using timber construction, recycled newspaper insulation and finishes selected for their recycled content and ecological sourcing.

The client’s commitment to sustainability on this project, within a modest budget, is to be applauded, as is its determination to deliver high-quality architecture in support of an important social need. The jury was also impressed by the evident value of the input from the project architect, Danielle Simpson, to the scheme’s success, and her close, collaborative relationship with the client. Bluebird is an exemplar for the role good architecture can play in transforming lives and demonstrates what can be achieved by an ambitious and far-sighted client working with an equally committed architect.

See the rest of the RIBA East winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here.

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor AW Hardy & Co
Structural engineer HJ Structural Engineers
M&E engineer Max Fordham
Project manager Gillies Consulting
Energy assessor One Energy Consulting
Ceramicist and community artist Hanman-Murphy Studios
Civil engineer HJ Structural Engineers, WARMEtude

 

Credit: SKArchitects
Credit: SKArchitects
Credit: SKArchitects
Credit: SKArchitects
Credit: SKArchitects
Credit: SKArchitects

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