Agar Grove \

The largest Passivhaus development in the UK

Five hundred affordable homes for new and existing tenants in the London Borough of Camden that put energy performance and fuel poverty top of the agenda.

The Challenge

Agar Grove is the largest of Camden Council’s community investment projects. It will provide 500 affordable homes for new and existing tenants, and once complete will be Passivhaus accredited promoting a ‘fabric-first’ approach to energy performance and human comfort.

Agar Grove is already a pleasant place to live, but the existing layout of the estate does not compare well to today’s principles of good design. It is inefficient, out-dated and disconnected from the wider city.

“This is considered to be an exceptional proposal which is strong in all aspects of design, from the masterplan layout right through to the detailed consideration of the doorstep experience.”

Officers report to planning committee, April 2014

The Big Idea

Working with Mae and Grant Associates, we have developed proposals in collaboration with residents for the redevelopment of the Agar Grove.

The master plan is based upon the traditional concept of ‘streets and squares’ with an emphasis on buildings which have front doors at street level, creating livable spaces between them, and allowing people to move across, through and within the site. The overarching desire is to create a place where people want to live, and contributes positively to the surrounding area.

The Small Detail

As part of the Agar Grove master plan Lulworth House will be retained, stripped back to the existing structure and intensively refurbished. The concrete structure in the building represents a significant amount of embodied carbon from its manufacture and retaining it for retrofitting is a large part of the sustainability strategy for the Agar Grove project.

The Bigger Picture

The existing pattern of dead end routes and poor connectivity will be replaced with a coherent network of streets and squares stitching it back into the local context. The streets will provide pedestrian, cycle and vehicle access to and from Agar Grove. At the heart of the scheme is a new Garden Square (Lulworth Gardens)

The planting strategy is used to strengthen the character of each space as well as providing year round colour, scent and delight. Planting has been developed to support a site wide Sustainable Urban Drainage system (SUDs), and on the roof garden a mosaic of habitat types promotes biodiversity, using species to support Camden BAP targets.

Agar Grove has been showcased by the Department for Communities and Local Government - Estate Regeneration National Strategy as a best practice scheme.

Working from the Inside Out

The new apartments will be generously sized offering a lot more area than the existing flats. In many cases balconies or ‘external rooms’ are recessed into the buildings to provide shelter and privacy. Maisonettes at ground level lift bedrooms above the street, activating the public realm with front doors and passive surveillance from kitchen windows.

  • Project Details
  • Sustainability
  • Collaboration

Project Summary

Project Team

Architects: Hawkins\Brown (lead) with Mae
Landscape Architect: Grant Associates
Planning Consultant: CMA Planning
Structural Engineer: Peter Brett Associates
Services Engineer: Max Fordham
Passivhaus Assessor: Max Fordham
Passivhaus Consultant: WARM
Project Manager: EC Harris
Financial Viability & Quantity Surveyor: EC Harris


  • London Planning Awards 2019 - The Mayor's Award for Sustainable and Environmental Planning - Shortlisted
  • The Sunday Times British Homes Awards 2018 - Development of the year (more than 100 homes) - Shortlisted
  • The Sunday Times British Homes Awards 2015 - Housing Project - Commendation
  • Housing Design Awards 2015 - Project Schemes - Winner
  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2014 - Masterplanning & Public Realm - Shortlisted
  • BD Architect of the Year Awards 2013 - Masterplanning and Public Realm - Shortlisted


Developed in Germany in the 1990s, Passivhaus is a ‘fabric first’ approach for designing a low energy building. The new build Agar Grove homes will be built to achieve Passivhaus certification. This will dramatically reduce the need for space heating and can reduce heating bills by 90% compared with conventional homes.

Passivhaus uses the sun, its occupants, household appliances and the extracted air – passive heat sources - to cover much of the heat demand. The remaining heat is provided by the supplied air, and is sufficient as a heat source because the house has such reduced heat losses.


The client is committed to rehousing existing residents who wish to remain on the estate, and critically to moving them only once. The Agar Grove community has been established for over 40 years and this will enable them to stay together.

To achieve this, residents have completed a Housing Need survey identifying their specific requirements, and this in turn has informed the unit type and mix of the proposals on a block by block basis in order to deliver a single decant.

Our work at Agar Grove is a great example of how good community consultation can improve a project. We worked with the estate’s existing residents to gain support for the scheme using simple tools such as models and visuals, and in the end were able to bring forward the refurbishment of the 18 storey Lulworth Tower at their request.

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