What is a Design Code?

Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 09:45

HCA is about to consult on the ‘Design Code’ for phase two at Northstowe – this document acts as a critical link between outline planning and detailed design.  Katja Stille, Associate Director at Tibbalds talks further about the importance of Design Codes to large scale developments in particular – both in terms of maintaining quality of design and as a great tool for delivery of new communities.

Who are Tibbalds?

Tibbalds has previously produced Design Codes for the Great Western Park urban extension and is experienced in masterplanning on former military sites, including most recently the Shorncliffe Garrison site in Kent. It has also produced a practice manual on design coding for UK Government.  Meet the team.

Why does Northstowe need Design Codes?

Northstowe Phase 2 will be built via a range of different delivery mechanisms, including the sale of parcels of land to national housebuilders or small local developers so coherence is essential. The HCA could even decide to build some parcels of land themselves, or provide serviced parcels to individuals for them to design and build their own homes.

Having a Design Code in place will enable everyone to ensure that the overall development delivers a consistently high level of quality and that, ultimately, all its elements come together effectively to meet the overall vision for the town. 

The Design Code will also offer the HCA the flexibility to adjust its delivery methods to suit the market as it evolves over the coming years without compromising on quality.

The overarching guidelines set out in the code will make sure that parcels built by different developers, at different stages, meet the quality targets and create a cohesive and distinctive town.

What are Design Codes?

Often overlooked during the development process by those who haven’t used them or seen the benefits before, Design Codes are a really important tool for delivering projects like Northstowe.

The first codes were actually introduced in the UK in 1667 to guide the rebuilding of the City of London following the Great Fire and have been used ever since in a number of high profile and award-winning housing developments.

They are already used across many European countries to control the development quality, including Germany, the Netherlands and France

At a basic level, a Design Code combines text and diagrams explaining the precise requirements for the physical elements, streets, buildings, landscape and infrastructure of developments.   

By instructing the work of architects, engineers and developers they help to deliver high quality developments by providing clarity, from the outset, on the ethos of the development and the standards required of everyone, in turn streamlining the planning and development process.

Producing a Design Code is complex and many different aspects relating to the design and construction of infrastructure, streets, spaces and buildings need to be taken into consideration.  

It’s important to understand good placemaking principles as well as the technical and commercial requirements of building a large new settlement, such as highway requirements, waste, utilities and phasing.

The Tibbalds team on Northstowe includes specialist advice from highway and civil engineers, as well as landscape architects, to complement our own skills.

Who should be involved to make it as useful as possible?

A collaborative process is as important as the final document itself.

The process for Northstowe phase two design code involves local planning and highway authorities, public bodies that will adopt infrastructure and streets, technical consultants, the HCA and other stakeholders and interested parties as far reaching as Gallagher Estates, for linkages to phase one, cyclist groups, the Cambridgeshire Quality Panel and members of the local and wider community.

How is it going to be used?

The final Design Code will instruct all future architects and designers when delivering future development phases, help the Councils assess detailed planning applications in the future, and speed up the delivery phases at a time when addressing the housing shortage is one of the UK’s major challenges.

Katja is associate Director at Tibbalds.

The consultation on the phase two design code will run until June 10th 2016.  Comment online.

Latest Tweets