A mixed-tenure residential scheme by Duggan Morris Architects forms a strong connection with its canalside site
Forming part of a masterplan by Swedish urban designers Tovatts, Klas Tham and Urbed, Block G at Brentford Lock West in London by Duggan Morris Architects is a low-cost, mixed-tenure housing scheme comprising 45 residential units. Fronting the canal and split over two plots, the buildings are conceived as cranked blocks following a meandering neighbourhood street held together by a large base plinth. Denser and higher than the surrounding housing units, the blocks are designed to take advantage of the amenity space and in turn articulate the canalside.
Each block is divided into three bays, breaking the massing of the two buildings and resulting in a stronger spatial experience. The structures frame communal spaces between the blocks and within the street. Designed collaboratively with Camlins Landscapes, each interstitial space has its own language and treatment of hard and soft surfaces. Brick was the natural material choice as it captures a sense of the nearby Georgian streetscapes and historic industrial warehouses that once clung to the side of the watercourse, says the architect. The roof profile references nearby riverside industrial sheds.
Upper floor plan
The main structure is an in-situ concrete column grid with infill blockwork. Handmade bricks tied back to the main structure are used to clad the facade. Pairs of soldier courses hung at each slab level express the floor transitions. The windows are full-height, reaching from one soldier course level to the next. The soldier course is set back locally beneath the windows creating a brick sill. The surrounds of each opening are clad in brick. Each flat has at least one cantilevered balcony, which is suspended from the concrete slab. The steel balustrades are powder-coated to RAL 1035, and each steel rod matches the soldier course perpends.
The ground floor communal spaces are clad in perforated mesh – powder-coated to match the balcony balaustrading – allowing for glimpsed views through to the spaces behind. A standing-seam roof with integrated cladding clips supports the roof timber allowing the entire structure to be clad in the same material, with precise spacing and alignment. All rainwater pipes are hidden within the internal risers. Each ground floor unit has a private garden space overlooking the public towpath or the newly landscaped communal spaces surrounding the blocks.
Sustainability is central to the project. More than 90 per cent of waste generated was diverted from landfill and recycled. A number of internal and external materials are A-rated in the BRE Green Guide. Community district heating using communal gas boilers ensures a seasonal efficiency of 90 per cent. Full-fill cavity insulation, combined with high-performance windows and accredited construction details for SAP, result in low U-values. Reduced water usage is achieved with low-capacity baths and reduced-flow rates. Rainwater harvesting is used to irrigate the soft landscaped areas. Low-energy lighting is employed throughout, and all units have mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. Photovoltaic panels reduce annual CO2 emissions.