North West Bicester eco-town
Design Review challenged the thinking... and led to improvements to the emerging masterplan.
Jenny Barker, Cherwell District Council, Client team
The development of an eco-town in North West Bicester set ambitious goals for a new sustainable community. Cabe’s Design Review panel has been involved since the early stages of the masterplan in 2010, raising design ambitions and ensuring that the vision and execution of the project set an exemplary standard for a new kind of eco-development.
NW Bicester is one of four government-designated eco-towns announced in 2008. The masterplan by Farrells Architects includes 6,000 zero-carbon homes with a good mix of affordable housing as well as infrastructure, schools and leisure facilities. In the Exemplar phase, the developers are building 393 zero carbon homes, a primary school, a local shop, an eco-pub and a community centre.
The Design Review panel ensured that this trial phase lived up to the high expectations - namely, allowing residents to live a truly sustainable lifestyle - while delivering exemplary design that set the standard for the rest of the development.
It's imperative that Bicester’s eco-town doesn't feel gimmicky or unnatural. It has to be a place that people genuinely want to live. The challenge facing the client was to make sure that the new development still felt part of the existing town of Bicester and integrated into the surrounding countryside - while delivering all of their design and sustainability ambitions.
The project aspires to:
- Ensure Britain’s first eco-town succeeds and thrives
- Make sure the scheme’s design enhances the natural surroundings
- Limit negative impact of cars by increasing strong public transport links
Design Reviews helped the client to achieve the high quality of design required in the context of the EcoTown.
Gary Young, Farrells Architects
Cabe’s Design Review panel took a "critical friend" approach, working with the local authority to push excellence and sustainability in the scheme, from increasing housing density to improving the use of greenspace.
By challenging the developer to limit the dominance of cars, they strengthened the eco-credentials of the scheme. The panel emphasised the need to integrate amenities with the surrounding area so both residents and local communities could share in them, making the town far more than an isolated estate. It was essential that, along with the immense sustainability ambition, the project deliver the level of design innovation required. For example, the panel advised integrating the watercourse and village green more to provide “a useable and magical resource for children”.
Work has started on site and the first residents will start to move into their homes in 2015.
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