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Chobham Manor\

A template for sustainable development

&\also thinktank, our social research unit, joined forces with Buro Happold and Soap Retrofit to gauge the success of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Chobham Manor, both as a sustainable development and as a place where people want to live.

The Challenge

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) is responsible for looking after the development of buildings and outdoor spaces in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It sets out to create exemplar neighbourhoods that not only provide homes for local people but also enable high quality, sustainable lifestyles and resilient, long-term communities.

The LLDC commissioned Hawkins\Brown, Buro Happold and Soap Retrofit to create a bespoke post occupancy evaluation (POE) framework and to trial it at phase 1 of Chobham Manor, the first residential developments to be built at the Park, which was completed in 2017.

Our Approach

The construction industry’s role in the fight against global warming is widely acknowledged. However, in order to combat the relentless pressure of the UK housing crisis, the social value of housing needs a similar rigorous testing regime. Environmental and social sustainability need to go hand in hand.

In recent years, the role of POEs in the built environment has steadily gained importance. As social and environmental performance requirements ratchet up, new developments must be tested against increasingly ambitious briefs.

With Buro Happold overseeing the project, including data protection, and Soap Retrofit analysing the energy and environmental performance of the buildings, our job is to engage with residents to find out what it’s really like to live at Chobham Manor, through a mixture of online surveys, focus groups and one to one interviews.

Traditionally, POEs focus on whether a building fulfils its purpose: Are the space standards enough? Do users feel well? Is the ventilation working? But at Chobham Manor, we are taking a more holistic approach, charting the relationship between the neighbourhood community, the streetscape and the residential blocks. It’s important to understand the resident’s experience of the development at every scale; building and neighbourhood cannot be understood in isolation. So, one to one interviews, for example, start with a walk around the public spaces, and ends over a cup of tea in the resident’s home.

The Outcome

The study is still ongoing, and although the pandemic delayed the project, the first results are producing excellent insights into the inner workings of this new development. Chobham Manor had a somewhat bumpy start; a delayed hand-over, some problems with the build quality and patchy after-care created unnecessary stress for the residents with some issues still being resolved. However, after 5 years, Chobham Manor has become a thriving community that is maturing and growing. Residents are clearly emotionally attached to their neighbourhood, especially the communal areas. And it’s a family-friendly neighbourhood where people greet each other in the street.

Another interesting outcome is how the variety of architectural designs and low density at Chobham Manor – generally an unpopular combination with developers - has helped to create a real sense of identity. Chobham Manor has also passed its first severe social stress test during the lockdowns with flying colours. The generous architecture and social support network have really helped to make Chobham Manor a Covid resilient neighbourhood.

Overall, this study will show whether the LLDC has achieved its aspirations and those of their residents. It provides a valuable template for future POEs of residential projects in the Park and beyond.

Project Summary

Project Team

Hawkins\Brown

Buro Happold

Soap Retrofit

(Photography: Jack Hobhouse)

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