On Site with Sykes

The latest RIBA CPD theme focuses on the ‘bubble’ that surrounds us as we live, play and work indoors. It suggests that as the physical boundary between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building, the building envelope must keep its users safe while also addressing the practicalities of day-to-day living. Many of the manufacturers and service providers which these CPDs feature are industry leaders in providing that protection. It reminds us that many of their popular seminars are still available online. Below are a selection of other pre-spring observations.


Christopher Sykes

is an Architect who trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. After he qualified, he worked in both London and Sweden. Having widened his writing and journalistic skills, he subsequently started his own publishing company specialising in building magazines and events. As a hobby, he used to write sitcom for the BBC.

AJ Retrofit Award

This winner from a host of interesting others is a project that transformed an unloved 1970s Brutalist council office in Euston into a hotel – a scheme the judges described as “remarkable”. The building was originally designed by Camden Council’s in-house architects as an annexe to the town hall. Despite being identified as detracting from the character of the local conservation area, Orms and its client Crosstree Real Estate Partners worked to retain it, converting it into a 266-bed boutique hotel while retaining 94% of the primary structure including basement and piling. The judges commended the three-storey extension for responding to the existing building – the addition clad in stainless steel, with columns threaded down through existing waffle slabs to the first-floor transfer slab. A reinstated public garden to the south reconnects the building to the local streetscape.

Modular housing addition

Modern house-builder, House by Urban Splash, has introduced a new typology. Row House is the fourth to be added to its portfolio of modern homes. Like Town House and Mansion House before, Row House is designed by award-winning architect firm shedkm. It offers the boldest and most modern aesthetic to date, characterised by vibrant red cladding and oversized floor-to-ceiling windows.

It comes in a choice of three sizes with the same footprint; two-storey, two-and-a-half-storey with a roof terrace and three-storey with a fantastic master suite. As with all House by Urban Splash homes, layouts can all be customised by the buyer to suit their lifestyle and taste.

Interior design trends

2020 Market Recap Evidence of the impact that COVID-19 has had on homeowners and renters has come to the fore now and will likely keep shaping how we design residential spaces for years to come.

Interior Design Studio Fibre’s newsletter spotlights that popularity of the home office has increased by 39% in the third quarter of 2020. Insights into several health and wellness categories also showed demand for exercise rooms and flexible spaces within homes, in addition to products for improving indoor air quality. The requirement for task lighting also rose in popularity. This has meant that more than ever, renters are aware of the importance of sound-proofing, good natural light, efficiencies in layouts and accessibility to quality outdoor space.

2021 trends will see water filtration and air purification systems, plus innovative circadian electric lighting technology to promote regenerative sleep. Community apps will enhance residents’ daily lives to assist in connecting with each other and the wider community in helping to break down the social barriers we are seeing due to restrictions. Studies are showing a large majority of people would like to continue to spend at least half of their working week from home. Given this information, there is a huge expectation that residential design will ensure these growing demands are captured in a sympathetic way. All of the above has meant that the BtR (Build to Rent) sector is more relevant than ever.

Sheds of the Year

Prepare to discover what new heights of creativity the nation’s ‘sheddies’ have scaled during lockdown – as Cuprinol Shed of the Year returns for 2021.

The past year has seen unprecedented amounts of time spent in homes and gardens. This has resulted in a DIY boom that has reshaped our living environments – by creating office spaces, back garden pubs and peaceful refuges away from the world outside.

That’s why Cuprinol is predicting that the 15th year of its much-loved Shed of the Year competition will be the most exciting one yet, once the April deadline for entries is passed.

The new regulator

It is worth noting that recently the Government announced that a new national construction products regulator has been set up to ensure homes are built from safe materials.

The regulator must also support the ‘Golden Thread’. This means simple access to digital records about construction products that are based on testing standards and processes that are transparent and accurate. Only when this is done will the design teams, constructors and clients have the assurances that the products they have specified are built and maintained.

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