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Situated on a strategic site off the north Cambridge City Centre inner ring road, studio24 architects have recently completed a new development ‘Nelson Court’, breathing new life into a semi-derelict back land site. Nelson Court was previously a mixture of retail shops with poor quality first floor accommodation, a three-bedroom house and small gap sites between buildings. The aim was to rejuvenate the under valued site on the edge of the De Freville conservation area drawing upon the qualities and small scale vernacular of surrounding character. It creates a mix of 15 one and two bedroom studios within walking distance of the city centre.

Complex ownership hurdles had to be overcome before planning could be considered and the developer, HTS Estates Ltd wanted to create high quality living spaces to complement their existing portfolio of commercial and residential properties.
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The project’s design development comes at a time of change within the City’s Local Plan and is a good example of niche sustainable development within a constrained town centre location. The design took a fabric first approach combined with its solar orientation and combined building services for heating and hot water generation, in order to maximise energy efficiency and available space within the site. It retained existing ground floor shops, remodelled the accommodation above, incorporated the existing house and created 11 new studio dwellings.

The design optimised the available south west orientation and retained existing gap sites to place a semi-private courtyard at its centre offering its occupants respite from the hustle and bustle outside. Main habitable living spaces focussed in to the landscaped garden so that daylight and sunlight penetration is maximized. Careful articulation of windows control privacy and reduce solar gain. The informal arrangement encourages social engagement between residents – assisted by the majority of dwellings having their own front door. The spaces between dwellings create a sense of place and form thresholds between occupiers.
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The design, developed using digital 3d modeling, enabling us to carefully consider and inform the design process, while at the same time visually assisting the clients’ decision making. The innovative design approach, attention to detail and materials has enabled the buildings to reduce long term energy demands and deliver sustainable development planning policies, while helping control on-going maintenance costs, all of importance to the developer.
The background building expresses a new confidence and a welcome change for the site that has quickly become home to its new residents. Similar sites that have a central location and accessible transport and local facilities, shops and businesses are increasingly playing a major part of sustainable urban solutions. Nelson Court demonstrates how compact arrangements and micro-communities that have sustainable locations, can bring positive change to urban and city fringes.
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The modern design takes a fresh look at the mews typology to inform the residential design for a back land site within Cambridge city
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The project has successfully overcome the difficulties presented by tight urban sites, but coupled with its innovative approach to construction, energy consumption, materials and planning, has had the benefit of an open-minded and supportive client, a determined project team and the desire to deliver a scheme which, from its inception, is firmly routed within a sustainable model.
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The results are attractive, high quality, light and private living spaces placed around a semi-private landscaped garden.
Nick Brown - HTS Estates Ltd
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Project Team
Client: HTS Estates Ltd,
Architects: studio24 architects
Planning Consultant: Carter Jonas,
PM and QS: Bremner Partnership LLP,
Structural Engineer: Gawn Associates,
Building Services: Building Services Design Ltd,
Landscape Architect: Jamie Buchanan,
Contractor: Patrick B. Doyle (Construction) Ltd
Photographs: Adelina Iliev Photography
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