1. Planning Issues

Creating Clear Pathways for Development

With regards to planning, this scheme is likely to be approved in the current climate, due to the fact that it will be of great assistance to the town in its renovation and replacement of the existing building stock, and vital for its survival as we approach peak-oil. It also fits well within current planning guidelines for the area.

The site is an industrial one, with multiple residential developments applications turned down over the past 15 years. It has good access by rail, canal and road, as well as by foot and cycle, and as part of its strategy it aims to reduce vehicle use and promote sustainable transport by opening up new links with the town and surrounding countryside. Some site traffic would include lorries, but at a far reduced rate to the sites pervious use. The building would fit within current density markers for the area, and will offer significant (100+) local jobs, and further ancillary positions in forestry and construction of the buildings products. It has education facilities with the aim of creating a more socially engaged and aware society and will produce homes that are well below the cost of the current affordable housing market. I would expect very little opposition to the buildings site, design or aims.

There is a sufficient set back from adjacent roadways and residential homes; larger than it was under the previous site ownership, and pavement access to and from the site is retained or improved. There are no issues of right to light or noise increases; except during the construction period, and no issues with oversight and privacy. The ridge heights are within the context of the area.

The brownfield nature of the site lends itself towards this development as the process of building will remove and remediate the contaminated material as the subterranean levels are excavated. There are no sources of odours, chemicals or particulates, other than sawdust, which can be contained and utilised in the factory spaces.

The proposed building, if built tomorrow, could easily attain secure by design status, as well as building regulation approvals. It is designed to be as adaptable for the future as possible, so has excess space for egress, more emergency exits than required and oversized stair cores and escape routes, as well as internal spaces which can be modified with installation to create a change of use, temporary or permanent.

It is not at risk of flooding from the River Bollin, Macclesfield Canal or surface water run-off, and the environmental impact report, due to its green roof, landscaping and planting in the extensive urban realm, would result in a positive improvement to the current derelict and contaminated landscape.

There are no issues with boundary walls, rights of access across the land; the site actually creates a new route, or historic context/conservation area’s with specific rules to be adhered to. The site is adjacent to the railway, and utilises it as part of its import and export network, thus consultation with rail authorities would occur during the planning stage of the development.

2. Development & Appraisal Scenario

A Co-operative arrangement

Ownership of land would be relatively straightforward, as it is the site of a recently closed haulage firm, and has been for sale for 18 months at time of writing. A purchase price would be agreed, deeds and liabilities checked and the process completed by lawyers via exchange of contracts and monies in trust; the site would then be in the ownership of a co-operative organisation. The vision is that the site will be owned and run as a not-for-profit entity for the good of Macclesfield; it is the town’s personal machine to rebuild, regenerate and create resilience in the town. I have however oversized certain aspects of the development that means that profitable aspects of manufacture can run concurrently with work on the town, thereby providing an income to support its own projects.

The project would be funded by a mixture of community fund raising, micro-loans within the community (creating a favourable payback to the town, not external banks), and development grants and loans from local government and the EU. As the building is also a research centre into Silviculture, Myrocchizal networks, timber disease, design and engineering, there are opportunities for research grants and business links to provide a further lucrative income.

By funding the project as much as possible using the local community, the funds going into the building will be retained within the town, creating a direct connection to the community, as well as either offering favourable interest rates and return, or acting as a saving scheme towards renovation or rebuild of the lenders property, at a not-for-profit coast ratio. The building construction could also be phased, creating the opportunity of lower start up costs and allow self-funding to completion.

3. Procurement & Risk

Self-build, Self-Fund

The exact construction process of the building is dependant upon community engagement and funding streams. As mentioned above, it could easily be phased, creating the opportunity of lower start up costs and self-funding to completion. This phasing would occur with the construction of a sacrificial warehouse (which later could be utilised elsewhere in Macclesfield) to begin the process of milling and drying timber, using trained, and training local staff.

From this warehouse the components of phase one (timber factory, engineering labs and community workshops) could be constructed. This would in tern manufacture phase two (research labs, teaching space, lecture theatres, seed banks and greenhouses could be built. Phase three would involve the construction of the value added computed aided factory space, where engineered timbers are transformed into components, panels and beams for rapid assembly on site. Costing for the construction is covered in section four later in this document, and as a per-household figure, are remarkably low.

Whilst this is possibly idealistic, it is within the realms of possibility, as it would allow hands on training of staff from the beginning of the process by trained contractors. It is unlikely that this project would be procured under any traditional form of contract due to the staged nature of construction, ongoing training and simplified processes. The key risk of the construction process are the excavations and tanking of the subterranean levels, working close to the railway at the West of the site and during the assembly of the engineered timber frame, of which some components are large. Care would be taken to mitigate all risks for these processes, and simplification of details and order of works processed to reduce time pressures and risk to employees during the build. Contractors may be employed at this stage, but the model is to use the building of the factory to train the community to rebuild their own landscape, and take responsibility for their own future.

With the majority of timbers in the building being load bearing, the opportunity to use cheaper construction materials in partition walls is high, but the buildings environmental performance and useability is more important in this case due to the buildings long-term aims. The cost of the timbers would be between 1% and 2% of the total building cost, less than the equivalent steel, and this cost is further reduced if the beams are manufactured on site using the phased construction model. Glazing is significant in the building in order to maximise north facing light and penetration to plant life in the greenhouses. It is expected to the single highest priced material in the build. Another significant cost will be photovoltaic’s, though the free electricity generated and the lack of mechanical ventilation systems in the building (except for laboratories where strict temperature and humidity levels are maintained) will create a positive pay back over the medium term.

As an estimate of the total cost, I have used an existing building in Germany with similar structural design, energy systems and glazing; it is 12,000m2 and built at a cost of €8million in 2000. Using this as a basis for the Macclesfield  facility it would cost £18-25million. This equates to a rough cost of between £720 and £1000 per building in Macclesfield (total 25,000), a remarkably low price considering the energy and climate adaptation technologies that would be provide to the town. This cost does not include the running costs associated with the creation of these products, and thus in reality would be higher than stated, but at a not-for-profit rate, it wouldn’t be expected to be considerably higher.

4. Architectural Practise

Macclesfields own Design Team

As part of the buildings remit, the rebuilding of Macclesfield, there is the intention of an in house design team to oversee all stages of the design process. Control over quality, delivery and construction could be easily achieved, providing the design team a rare opportunity to really see through what they have designed to completion. The ability to design and build, but with the co-operatives own materials provides a level of streamlining and efficiency in cost and construction speed which will keep the overheads of materials and products low.

A full design team would be required for full time work with the task of renovating, adapting or rebuilding 500 buildings a year (25,000 total homes over 50 years0, not including fee paying works of shipping products to other towns in the region and around the world. Whilst this number initially seems impossible, there is a degree of repetition with typology, and once a kit or solution has been designed for climate adaptation and energy reduction, the changes for individual houses would be minimal, and these lower level decisions can be made by the factory employed installers on site if required.

There is no reason for the process to be completed outside of the remits of the current Plan of Work methodology, though to speed up the process, reduce paperwork and increase efficiency, some local bylaws could be passed to omit liability during the test phases of renovations. This would also be useful in the case of renovation to existing facades, cladding and material changes specifically. A fee basis would not be charged in the regular way, allowing lower cost production of buildings, products and ancillaries such as furniture. As the workers at the centre would be working for the co-operative with the same goals, I would expect the flow and exchange of ideas to be more fluid, job roles (such as architect, engineer and project manager) be come blurred as the projects demand it, and community engagement in the design process take on a more genuine roll.

5. Professional Reflection

Hello World

I will be leaving the UK for Canada once again on the completion of this course, to reside with my soon to be wife. Whilst awaiting my residency application to complete, I will be spending the next month busily preparing for our wedding, which will take place at a remote lodge 45km from Golden, British Columbia with 120 family and friends. I will be doing various creative projects in the intermediary, as well as converting our 1996 Ford Thomas 52 seat yellow school bus (Gertrude) to run on waste bio-oils, in preparation for a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver with 30 friends after the wedding.

Through the summer, as the rules for Canadian working practises before Visa approval are incredibly strict, I will be spending my time on speculative projects of my own in order to bolster my portfolio as well as updating my online presence whilst looking for work to start once in receipt of my residency papers.

I aim to work for a practise in Canada for the next 3-4 years whilst becoming chartered, and wish to do this in both Alberta and British Columbia. There are various firms which to which I wish to apply, one particular which specializes on timber high-technology timber construction, and has its own 60 person strong machine shop attached to their design offices. They work in both Canada and the US, from residential homes to visitor centres, offices and schools. After this period I hope to travel whilst working in Architecture to the Central an Latin America’s, specifically Costa Rica to work with an orphanage and to Argentina and Chile where I have family.

I hope to become involved in charity work once my visa allows it, and use my design skills to help where I can, both at home and abroad.