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Client Adviser Case Study: Exhibition Mews

Client Adviser case study: Exhibition Mews

Project Title: Exhibition Mews, Whitehill & Bordon
RIBA Client Adviser: Juliet Bidgood
Design Team Lead: Ash Sakula Architects
Project Type: Housing
Project Value: £600,000

Ash Sakula Architects. Photo © Gareth Gardner

Accurate advice as the project was set out made sure that the client was able to identify a talented design team to creatively develop their design brief and deliver an innovative exemplar housing project.

Exhibition Mews is one of a series of demonstration projects devised by the Whitehill & Bordon Eco Town to test approaches to low energy buildings. A design competition was used to identify a design team who could innovatively deliver a sustainable, liveable and affordable carbon neutral housing exemplar. As well as achieving high standards of energy efficiency, the project was to explore how a replicable carbon neutral terraced housing typology could contribute to the character of the new Eco Town in the South Downs.

Ash Sakula Architects. Photo © Gareth Gardner

Key learning:

  • Clients can benefit from setting up competitive selection processes that leave room for dialogue and further brief development.
  • Establishing appropriate evaluation criteria and submission requirements ensures that the client can attract talented teams.
  • Exemplar projects are a valuable way to engage a wider community in developing new approaches.

Ash Sakula Architects. Photo © Gareth Gardner

Juliet Bidgood was appointed to advise the project delivery team from the outset, supporting two different project managers to develop the design brief and promote a design competition, providing clarity and continuity to the pursuit of the project vision and aims.

Early on the client was dissuaded from holding a single stage open competition as this calls on many practices to invest free time to develop designs that can’t be tested or developed in dialogue with the client. Instead a two stage selection process shortlisted five teams to develop sketch designs. For the competition selection criteria were devised that would prioritise the client's wish to identify an imaginative and capable team who would be able to extend the design brief whilst working with budget constraints. Criteria included: creativity, the ability to develop environmentally responsive design, technical capability and communications skills.

Financial and insurance requirements were set to pass or fail but with a threshold that would not exclude SMEs - a category into which most young practices fall. In the second stage assessment of the five selected design teams the proposed approach to the project was allotted 80% of the score and the fee bid 20%. A competition brand was designed and the brief was carefully designed to signal the aspirations for the project. Adverts were placed in key design journals.

The competition was won by Ash Sakula Architects because their approach was considered by the jury to be most liveable. In their design for the terrace of three houses, everyday needs for storage and domestic activities are carefully considered. The cubic form of the house is extended into the front garden with uninsulated entrance porches and space for laundry made available on the upper level. The construction is timber framed and timber shingles are used to clad the rear elevation.

© Ash Sakula Architects

The competition process ensured that the client selected a design led team who could meet the economic and technical challenges and innovate in the way that the buildings ‘embed cues for sustainable living’. Exhibition Mews won an RIBA South Award in 2016. It was also shortlisted for the Stephen Lawrence Prize that is intended to reward fresh talent working with smaller budgets.

‘Juliet's advice ensured the competition briefs for the Eco town terrace prioritised design quality and would attract wide interest from architecture practices. She was able to draw on her knowledge of national guidance and briefs from other competitions to ensure the outcome of this process was successful. Juliet's expert advice particularly shaped the evaluation criteria and submission requirements and as a direct result 54 teams entered the first stage.

Juliet perfectly demonstrated that reliable advice, at the right time, can make a huge positive impact on the success of a project’ - Sarah Allen, Project Lead.

RIBA accredited Client Advisers are experienced architects that can provide impartial and informed advice from the earliest stages of your project. Find out more about why a Client Adviser may be right for your project, how to choose one, and read more case study examples.

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