The Adams+Collingwood team are really excited to see the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize awarded to the sustainable, low budget, council housing scheme by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley.

We see their Goldsmith Street project as raising the bar for all new build housing projects and demonstrating that simple forms lend themselves to highly controlled, insulated and air tight building envelopes. Our specialist residential architecture team has long held the belief that these building forms are eminently practical and can be elegant in design.

If all new building achieved the same high sustainability standards that would account for around 20% of the UK housing stock becoming sustainable by around 2030, which still leaves 80% of existing housing stock requiring dramatic improvements to reach the set targets for reducing carbon emissions.

In the UK we like our old properties and the communities fostered by established street patterns. Adams+Collingwood Architects are pushing a new concept – the Terrace Upcycle (pictured left) – to invest in these existing homes to bring them up to the standard set by the Stirling Prize winners. Our idea is simple and low-cost. We take the traditional two up two down terrace house and with a clear-cut set of design rules, upcycle it to create two highly sustainable homes in place of one poorly insulated home. This adds a third more volume to a typical terraced house, encompassing a new self-contained ground floor unit and garden, plus a family home with a roof garden. We retain the well-loved terraced street frontage and party wall structures, and create a new floor in the same way that we allow permitted development loft extensions. The end result is two quality homes that match the affordable and sustainable standards of this year’s Stirling Prize winners. This can all be done without destroying the street patterns and character of the homes that we all enjoy.

The mood in our residential team for this concept is enthusiastic and we are feeling further inspired and energised by the Stirling Prize win. In our Terrace Upcycle we envisage a close relationship between the ground floor flat occupiers and the larger home above; perhaps a granny or elderly relative who needs care and support from their family above, or council housing, or apartments for local key workers, or individuals and couples on a low income, or maybe even students. The possibilities for encouraging multi-generational living, increasing council house availability, and strengthening community ties are endless.

We also see a fruitful practical financial relationship between the current property owners and their local council. For a relatively low upfront cost the current property owners improve their own home and the local council will get the homes they need. The investment and planning approval will have the tie/covenant that the new accommodation is ring fenced for the social need. We can see the same model being applied to other common house types, such as semi-detached and larger terraced houses.

Thinking bigger, if our idea catches on then economies of scale could be used to prefabricate much of the construction adding a new level of quality and sustainability into the construction process. Terraced front gardens could even have an access duct for all new communications and services to be run, resolving the headache of rerunning networks.

We have ideas for the local corner shop being rejuvenated as a supply centre for the community and with double the number of adults, the pub could become the local extension to the living room that it was in the past. With driverless cars one could envisage many of the streets being used for access only and returning to become communal playgrounds. Street football… just imagine it!

In our view, the Stirling Prize winner has not invented something new, but they have reminded us of what we already have or could have.

Get in touch
Adams+Collingwood have been talking to about the Terrace Upcycle to the London Mayor’s Office, City Forum, Croydon and Hammersmith and Fulham. Our founding director Rob Adams has recently been invited to speak at round table events and conferences. We are keen to follow up these discussions, so if you would like to find out more about our concept, please get in touch.

You can read more about the RIBA Stirling Prize 2019 here