GreenTrace Architect have won a design competition for a low impact, one-planet, self-build, co-housing scheme at the community agricultural hub and beacon for positive change that is Bridge Farm in Bristol.
The design competition was held following a decision by the Bridge Farm Community to withdraw an existing outline planning application for 28 dwellings encompassing the whole site drawn up by previous architects. The application was withdrawn because the group became less supportive of the road and general layout due to its impact on the land, the listed buildings, and harmful contributions to climate change.
The community therefore decided to produce a new design, focusing the development along the existing Glenfrome Rd, and thus not requiring a new road into the site. The re-design began with a design competition, with an aim to explore different options, and to select an architect to progress the chosen design to a new outline planning application. Four Architects were invited to submit proposals to a brief prepared by Ashley Vale Action Group (AVAG) who bought the farm in January 2018 with the intention of repairing and reusing the listed buildings and creating an affordable, sustainable, community-led housing scheme on the surrounding land. The competition brief focused on small and affordable homes with minimal impact on the land, which is to be safeguarded for sustainable agriculture and the enjoyment of the community and residents. The architects proposals were presented at a public event at the farm on 20 March 2022 on which over 150 people attended. Joshua Wood from GreenTrace Architect won the competition confirmed by a significant majority public vote.
The proposal consists of 12 new low-impact homes, a Common House and Energy Hub; arranged to form a lively pedestrian street alongside the charming existing (Grade II listed) farm yard, and set amongst 7 acres of community growing space and wildlife habitat. The land is designated for community-led housing in the emerging local plan for Bristol City. The key concepts that guided our proposal are:
1. One-Planet Living
Restricting development to ensure enough land is safeguarded for regenerative agriculture and biodiversity. Land-based activities are enshrined in the purpose of the development. The land will contribute to the food, health, welfare, and livelihoods of the residents.
2. Save space, save cost, save energy, save carbon
Small, compact homes are more affordable, use less energy to heat, embody less carbon to build, and take up less land.
3. Farmyard Street Character
Continue the linear farm-yard street character, following the contours and linking old with new; taking design cues from the existing buildings.
Recognising that self-build is key to a sense of place & community. The scheme includes a mixture of self-build, self-finish, and group-build plots.
5. Green Amenity
Retraining green infrastructure for the benefit of the public and to retain the character of
the conservation area. Green views up the western boundary of the site are retained and the height of development is minimised to ensure green infrastructure can be seen on the horizon from key viewpoints.
A co-housing community with shared space and amenities. Private gardens are minimised in favour of shared outside space. A new pedestrian street hopes to establish an access-way to the school and to encourage a public realm within the farm. The existing west barn is at the heart of the site as a community hub for all to use, and a new Common House is proposed for the co-housing group to share facilities such as guest bedrooms, laundry, and kitchen.
7. Seek the Sun
The south facing slope presents a brilliant opportunity to benefit from the sun’s energy by maximising renewable energy generation via solar panels. An Energy Hub is proposed to house communal batteries that could provide enough energy (if passive house levels of thermal efficiency are obtained) to heat and operate the homes. Initial strategies posed the idea of an 'earth bank' thermal store to capture energy from the sun, to be recuperated from the ground in the colder months.
Community-led design process
We are delighted to be working on this project. Designing with groups of self-build, eco-enthusiasts for community-minded, sustainable housing is exactly what GreenTrace Architect is here for. Please see our blog-post that aims to describe the community-led design process that unfolded for this fascinating project.
I am certain that this Bridge Farm will become an inspiration for sustainable urban communities to come. If you would like to follow the project or know more about Bridge Farm, you can visit their website here. The community is ever-growing and there is a wealth of interesting events and green initiatives happening year round.