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A.W. Hardy completes shared houses for the recovering homeless on behalf of Southend charity HARP

Our team recently handed over the keys to Bluebird, a development in Southend-on-Sea that has been uniquely designed to help local homeless charity HARP provide accommodation and ongoing support to those in need.

About the build

Bluebird, located on Southchurch Avenue, is a 50-bed development boasting 35 bedspaces in the new build and 15 further beds across three terraced houses. The gated residential mews includes one 5-bedroom shared house with a DDA suite, and five 6-bedroom shared houses, each with its own patio and garden area. The design also allowed for communal bike and bin stores.

A.W. Hardy was invited to tender after working with both HARP and their chosen architects, SK Architects, on previous projects.

There was a public consultation prior to the works taking place, with residents and neighbours able to have their say on the development. HARP and SK Architects listened to concerns and sought to create designs that were sympathetic to the existing environment from day one.

Access to the site was limited, so, after seeking their permission, our team managed to create a pathway to the development via neighbours’ back gardens. We replaced residents’ rear fences as a thank-you for use of their land.

Why is Bluebird important for the local community?

In HARP’s own words:

“Bluebird aims to create a small, gated community consisting of supported housing for local people recovering from a period of homelessness. The project seeks to help clients get back on their feet before moving onto maintainable, independent living in the community.”

In recent years, there has been a bottleneck on the availability of Move On accommodation that is both suitable and affordable for residents in the local area. HARP has also identified the need to provide low-support housing as people transition into work and a more independent way of living. HARP estimates that residents will stay at the Bluebird facility for an average of two years.

More information on Bluebird’s facilities and design can be found here.

Blending smart design with eco-friendly features

The team here at A.W. Hardy worked closely with SK Architects and the client to incorporate a series of environmentally friendly concepts into the project.

All buildings are Passivhaus houses, meaning they meet high energy efficiency requirements.

To demonstrate how economical they are to run, the average airtightness for homes in the UK is around 5 m3/hr/m2. Using the same method of measurement, Passivhaus builds achieve 0.6 m3/hr/m2 or better.

Another benefit of working to Passivhaus standards is that the systems and ventilation used within the design will help to create a cleaner environment internally, which provides additional health benefits to residents.

We believe that, at the time of writing, Bluebird is the only accommodation of this type for people recovering from homelessness in the country that meets Passivhaus standards.

  • There is no gas supply to the building – all appliances run on electricity only
  • A series of heat pumps were installed across the site
  • The development’s timber frame is filled with Warmcel insulation comprising of recycled newspaper, which is the highest performing sustainable insulation available

Danielle Simpson, architect at SK Architects, explains how they were committed to delivering these superior eco features for HARP.

“We tried to stay within the parameters of affordability while introducing materials, techniques and equipment that would help HARP save money on their energy bills over time whilst increasing user comfort and creating a space where HARP’s clients feel valued,” she says.

“Of course, it costs more to have these levels of systems in any building. We’re delighted that HARP had the vision and commitment to the environment to drive this and enable us to create such an asset for HARP that will not only help the charity make savings on their essential services in the longer term, but help to reduce their energy usage and carbon footprint, too.”

Clay hanging tiles were used to incorporate a natural material whilst forming a seamless façade that incorporated colour and texture to create a sense of individuality for each mews house. Working together with a local ceramicist and community artist Madelaine Hanman-Murphy, and UK supplier, Dreadnought Tiles, the design was able to incorporate a series of bespoke debossed tiles which will feature roundels created by both HARP’s clients and members of the community through exploration of what ‘home’ means to them. Truly unique discs are set to line the façade, adding a wonderfully personal touch to the development. Workshops for supporters of the project to create their own roundels will soon be available to book via the HARP website.

Finding the funds

Stephen Mansfield, Director of Fundraising & Communications at HARP, explains how HARP found the budget to incorporate such state-of-the-art eco features into the build.

“We were very fortunate to secure funding from a wide range of sources. Principal funding came from Homes England, with additional substantial grants from Garfield Weston, Landaid, The Albert Hunt Trust, Fowler, Smith & Jones, and B&Q,” he says.

“We have a capital appeal in progress which has so far raised an amazing £75,000, including significant personal donations from a number of very generous supporters and local community groups, as well as important loans from Charity Bank and one of our local churches, St.Clement’s.”

“Members of the public who are interested in supporting this appeal can find out more here.”

What Bluebird means to HARP

Nicky Bowling, Director of Property Development at HARP, has the following to say about the impact Bluebird will have on those in need in the local community:

“In total, Bluebird will offer comfortable, secure living spaces to up to 50 people who are recovering from homelessness at any one time. Such a boost in available supported accommodation will be transformative for the local community, and we know that Bluebird will give a base to our amazing staff and volunteer teams to carry out their living-changing and life-saving work, helping local people to turn their lives around and overcome homelessness for good.

“Although we have not yet welcomed our first resident to Bluebird, we expect the majority of the people that live there to be in the younger age brackets and to be towards the end of their homelessness journey, getting ready for independent living.”

She goes on to highlight a recent case that demonstrates the importance of HARP’s services.

“One such person we supported recently is Jack. Jack first came to HARP at the age of 21 after a difficult few years following the death of his dad. He was drinking heavily and using drugs, and had got behind on his bills, becoming homeless. He came to HARP, and, with support, turned things around.

“Now, Jack is studying for his degree in Clinical & Community Psychology up in London, and is considering a Master’s when he graduates. In Jack’s own words: ‘Without HARP, things would have gotten really bad, I would have fallen through the cracks and possibly wouldn’t even be here anymore. I used the opportunity to turn things around and I’m now living a good life with a bright future. Big thanks HARP.’

“We hope that Bluebird will provide a footing for us to work with many more people like Jack.”

Final words

Nicky and the team at HARP say they were delighted to work with A.W. Hardy again.

“A.W. Hardy successfully delivered our Bradbury Centre in York Road, which was our first venture into development of our own accommodation and certainly a challenging one! But based on that experience, we knew that we could expect a quality product from A.W. Hardy, and they have delivered for us again.

“Bluebird provided us all with different challenges as it was everyone’s first venture into Passivhaus construction and was at times a steep learning curve. We collectively overcame the challenges by maintaining good communication, proactive thinking, and had the benefit of working alongside an excellent design team in SK Architects.

“The benefits to our revenue costs in terms of avoiding the high energy prices we’re now all experiencing was a happy accident and really a secondary benefit. Clearly this is going to help us moving forward with reduced running costs, but when we first made the decision, it was all about developing something with a low carbon footprint, rather than a direct cost saving.

“We are thrilled with the result and are looking forward to welcoming our residents in early December.”

Dave Bilcliffe, our Contracts Director, says:

“It feels incredible to give something back to the community and complete on a project that will do so much to support the less fortunate. It’s great to know that our work will be put to such good use.”