Cork County Council are proposing to redevelop a derelict site in the centre of Bantry Town for use as a multi generational social housing project, in conjunction with Cork Age Friendly Alliance (CAFA) and 2nd Year students at CCAE. The purpose of the project is to facilitate the integration of young families, people with older children, people whose families have grown up and left home, elderly and disabled people. The site is conveniently located to all services and the town core is less than 50m. The site has a considerable gradient from south to north and west to east.
While all prospective residents can live independently, nonetheless, all age groups can benefit from a collective sense of community, and building relationships between young and old - made possible by the design of the project in general and the individual housing units themselves. These housing units are essentially 'homes for life'. All housing units (houses and apartments) will have an inbuilt flexibility in the design and can adapt to changing needs with simple modifications as people age, and their circumstances change, or their health status becomes compromised, requiring wheelchair or other aids.
My design solution, referencing the CCAE brief as in 'Designing for a Flexible Life' demonstrates adaptabilty in the interior layout, through easy rearrangement of interior spaces, for example - accommodating a bedroom downstairs in a two storey house, a partitioning system between spaces, wider passages, corridors, landings, more generous circulation spaces in individual rooms. I have considered the design of window spaces in rooms where the sills are lower for wheelchair users to view out. Also, its possible to design in 'wet rooms' instead of regular bathrooms, in some units likely to be occupied by more elderly and / disabled people
The overall scheme includes facilities as diverse as a childrens' playground and public spaces for relaxation and neighbourly interactions - where young meet old. Disabled or physically compromised people can easily access 'the plateau area' where the public space consists of seating and soft landscaping, and a curving level pedestrian footpath which acts as the spine to this whole area - ideal for short strolls without local traffic interrupting.
I would like to retain the 'sense of street', but with new builds, appropriate to the present urban scale, to integrate into the overall townscape. My proposal is to clear the site in it's entirety, install the necessary services and infrastructure - water, sewage, electricity and broadband - and also all the necessary groundworks, like retaining walls, etc..
I propose that there will be a self service laundrette on-site (all vending machines) - as both a useful facility and as a communal service - a sort of informal community centre. Residents can do full laundry (washing, drying, ironing), have a coffee and chat or read while they wait - apartment dwellers who cannot install a washing machine in their unit will appreciate this facility. All the machines are of the vending type, so it really is 'self service'.
I have considered fire risk in the apartment building, and have provided for fire escape through secondary doors onto external stairwells - these are directly accessed through rooms where furniture or other obstacles will not impede evacuation.
Finally, as the site has considerable gradients in all directions, I have endeavoured to make all units as accessible as possible acknowledging the different levels - there's a liftshaft to service the 4 storey apartment block, but can also be used to access/exit the upper levels of the site via a causeway that extents out from the second floor level of the apartments to the houses above. There are no steps on the site.
Principle 1: Equitable Use
The design of the entire scheme endeavors to meet the criteria as set out in the project brief by both Cork County Council Architect's Department, CAFA and CCAE and addresses the needs of a diverse group of people of all ages and abilities - in creating a new community for the greater good of all concerned by providing quality built homes and apartments that are designed with inbuilt flexibility to adapt to changing lifestyles and circumstances - especially as people age, and health issues are more likely to manifest themselves.
However, the aspiration and principal philosophy is that all individuals should be able to enjoy living in their new homes - for all of their lives - and the opportunity to become part of a new community, as people should not be compelled to move from their home, as they age and/or their circumstances change. Younger families will help regenerated the residential area, integrating with older, more established residents.
Principal 2: Flexibility in Use
While there is an overall design theme linking all the design permutations through both materials, colour and architectural style and details, particularly evident in the exterior treatment - the modular nature of the various units, means that there is a certain transferability of interior layout and commonality of fitout of furniture and appliances. The entire interior space is non-structural, and if necessary an extent of modification can be easily and cost effectively achieved - with the minimum of disruption and cost.
The interior spaces can be reconfigured in a number of ways, within the overall footprint of each unit - for example, partitioning in some areas instead of solid walls.
Principal 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
The size and layout of all residential units is somewhat variable, with larger units intended for young growing families (2 and 3 bed family homes), while more compact units (1 bed/1 person units) are generally intended for more elderly individuals, usually living on their own - perhaps assisted by homecare visitors.
The total floor areas endeavours to comply with the Council's own County Development Plan Guidelines with recommended minimum specific floor areas per each individual resident/unit.
Circulation space is a primary consideration, in every layout, from the threshold all through the interior room sub-divisions.
Principal 6: Low Physical Effort
The positioning of fixtures and fittings together with domestic appliances are intended to minimise effort by employing ergonomic design principals in the positioning of everything with consideration to the end users physical capabilities -including the consideration of food preparation areas being close to the dining table, kitchen floor units, wall units to space around beds,etc.. In particular, bathroom/toilet areas allow reasonable space between wc, shower, washbasin - in the event that the user may be dependent on wheelchair or walking aid.