Bungalows in the sky

Nicholas John talks to the Chairman of Inspired Villages, Keith Cockell, about the planning that goes into the design of a care village.

Keith, do we perhaps have a misconception in this country about older age and the “bungalow in Bournemouth” semi-humorous notion of retirement?

A recent report by a leading estate agent stated that 60% of people over 65 years of age would prefer to live in a bungalow. Of that percentage, half would like to live in a bungalow in a town and half in a rural location. The report concluded that as this was obviously impossible to realise, the compromise was an apartment, a so-called ‘bungalow in the sky.’

Why are so few bungalows being built nowadays?

The answer is simply that bungalows take up too much land. And though it’s important to look at this, for this article it’s more productive to look at the benefits one enjoys from living in a bungalow and how those can be incorporated into an apartment. First and foremost is living on one level; with no stairs as a barrier, bedrooms become part of your daily living space.

Natural light is very important and our apartments are designed to maximise daylight: we limit the floorplan and number of apartments served by the lift. This allows us three out of four external walls for windows, doors and balconies, which compares very favourably to most conventional apartments built in the housing sector.

Is living on the ground floor the choice of most people?

While the layout of the apartment may be right for you, the practicality you’re looking for will determine on what level you choose to live. For some, being on the ground level with direct access to the outside is important. We have a built-in option within our design: you can live in a ground floor home with its own entrance, or you can be on the ground floor with a communal lobby.

Of course, some people feel there are real benefits from living on the first floor. The quality of sunlight is naturally higher, together with better exterior views and greater privacy and security. We offer two options for first-floor living: a private front door and lobby at ground level with an easy-going flight of stairs or, secondly, level access from a lift serving the first and second floors. Even in a three-storey building, the lift will only be serving five or six apartments, with no long corridors. For some residents, “living over the shop” or on top of the hotel is their preferred option as this gives immediate access to the village facilities and care services, whatever the weather.

For those living in first and second floor homes, a balcony is of great importance and wherever we can, the living room or master bedroom will have a balcony. These are spacious enough for 2-3 seated people and are often covered by extended gable roofs. Our penthouse apartments, situated over the village centre, have extensive roof gardens that double the total living space.

Is the number of windows and the provision of natural, internal light considered during the planning and design process?

We ensure that our windows are deep to give maximum visibility and sills are no higher than 600mm from the floor. Windows are as large as possible, whilst respecting the aesthetic principle of good architectural elevation that reduces the proportion of windows the higher they go.

And how is the overall village design reflected in the planning?

The apartments are designed around external spaces, such as courtyards and small squares. Architecturally, we vary the appearance of our buildings by combining different eaves and ridge heights, together with gables, balconies and roof forms. This gives articulation to the elevations and, in layman’s terms, makes the place attractive!

We have avoided using heavy red brick elevation on external walls in favour of multi-coloured timber boarding, which gives the feel and atmosphere of a marina or a coastal development and the close proximity of apartments offers the opportunity of contact between neighbours – a morning greeting or an evening enquiry about a gin and tonic!

Through design we create emotions and, by design, we guide that emotion towards the expectations of our residents. The people who live in, and visit our villages, make them great places to live.

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