LFA 2020: The Power of Social Housing – event debrief

LFA 2020: The Power of Social Housing – event debrief

As part of the LFA Digital 2020, on Wednesday 17th June 2020 we held a webinar entitled ‘The Power of Social Housing’.  Chaired by Martyn Evans (who also chairs the Board at Brick By Brick), we had 450 people sign-up for the session, mostly architects, but also many local Croydon people.

Chloe Phelps, our Head of Design who heads up our own architectural practice Common Ground Architecture (CGA), started off with a brief explanation of the Brick By Brick model and Croydon Council’s ambitious plans to deliver more affordable housing across the borough.  CGA’s first scheme places great importance on good design, and Pump House in South Norwood is their first scheme which is now close to completion.  She also touched on balcony design, rethinking how we live in our homes in the current crisis, and the importance placed on outside space in the next wave of schemes.



Starting with the Neave Brown quote ‘Why do we have to call it social housing?  Why don’t we just call it housing?’, Annalie then shared Mikhail Riches’ RIBA Stirling Prize winning scheme, Goldsmith Street, for Norwich Council.  Annalie highlighted Norwich Council’s desire to push the environmental credentials of the scheme, because of the benefits this brings such as impact on energy bills and improvement in health and well-being.

Annalie pointed out that, because councils are there for the long-term, they are therefore interested in investing in the people who will live there – citing a small play area that they were able to incorporate in Goldsmith Street which has hugely benefited the community.




Sarah Wigglesworth joined us to explore what times of housing can we design that will create future resilience.  Sarah believes that designing for the people who will live in the homes, with a view to creating strong communities, is crucial.  She described how designing for older people, in particular considering how to address potential loneliness, can actually provide answers for everyone. Sarah introduced the concept of ‘rightsizer’ homes, which can adapt to people throughout their life stages, as she believes that post Covid-19, older people (fourth generation) will increasingly prefer to stay in their own homes instead of moving into care homes.  Sarah echoed Annalie and Chloe’s points that outside space is essential to wellbeing, and that shared space can really help build communities.





There were some great questions from the attendees, for example:

Is there any difference between social housing and open market housing?

Annalie pointed out that families, particularly those in social housing, prefer doors between their kitchen and living room, and predicted that we would be seeing more doors post-Covid!

Chloe felt that all the homes we create are ‘homes’, that are just introduced to people through different means.

Is there a direct contradiction between protecting green spaces not losing biodiversity, and the need for homes?

Sarah felt that Covid was a wake-up call in the need to protect the natural environment, but felt that there were good examples of how we can make the two work together – as long as we properly understand the need for biodiversity, and can become more sensitive in our designs to landscaping, bringing this to the fore.

How do we deliver quality, while keeping costs under control, which is especially challenging in the delivery of social housing?

Annalie pointed to the need to keep things simple, with rigorous planning to achieve passivhaus.  Also, savings can be found while also keeping quality if you try hard enough!

The webinar was recorded, with all the presentations and questions, and can be viewed here.