Monday, June 19, 2017
Peabody and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) are pleased to announce the launch of an international design competition for a new library building in Southmere Village, Thamesmead. This new civic building will be at the heart of the first phase of the planned 1,622 new homes to be delivered as part of the Abbey Wood and South Thamesmead Housing Zone in the London Borough of Bexley. It will be located on the south side of Southmere Lake within 10 minutes’ walk of the eastern most terminus of the new Elizabeth Line at Abbey Wood. This new state-of-the-art building will serve the needs of new, existing and future communities, with a 21st century library, learning space and potential to accommodate other civic functions, including learning, health and wellbeing spaces.
This competition provides an opportunity for creative design solutions to be explored that engage with the lakeside settings and Peabody’s commitment to investing in the local area. John Lewis, Executive Director, Thamesmead-Peabody said: “Building great places where people want to be is fundamental to our plans for Thamesmead. We are excited about the potential for a state-of-the-art library, learning and wellbeing space in a new cultural quarter close to the Elizabeth Line station at Abbey Wood. We are looking for architects from across the world to submit their ideas and help Thamesmead reach its potential as London’s new town.” Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE said; “This is a chance to get involved with providing our residents with a building worthy of the great new development planned at Southmere Village.
The new library will be a key part of the local community and with such an interesting brief we should see some innovative designs, giving us a building we can all be proud of.” Peabody’s plans for Thamesmead will deliver around 20,000 new homes in the town. Proctor & Matthews architects are leading on the design of the 1,622 new homes in the South Thamesmead Housing Zone and they will help draw up a shortlist from the expressions of interest alongside experts including: Peabody, the London Borough of Bexley and architect John Whiles from Jestico + Whiles acting as the RIBA Architect Adviser. Further details about the project and how to enter is available at www.architecture.com/competitions or www.thamesmeadnow.org.uk/southmere-library The deadline for receipt of Expression of Interest returns is 2.00pm (BST) on Thursday 13 July 2017.
The first is building control, ensuring that increasingly complex building regulations are properly implemented. Building control departments in many local authorities have been eviscerated. They are invariably under-resourced with no teeth. Often a subset of planning departments, they lack the authority to carry out what is arguably the most important part of a local authority’s remit – to ensure the safety of its residents.
Furthermore this function has been partly privatised, with a range of companies competing for the business. It is often those companies with a reputation for gaining “easy” approvals that increasingly dominate the market, further undercutting the council building control.
The morale among many council building control officers is extremely low. I completed a small complex project in an inner London borough last year. The council building control officer I worked with was excellent, but told me that he could not cope with his workload, and was unhappy with the way the department was run. He has since left the council.
Second, fire officers play a crucial role in ensuring that all fire regulations are met, and devising a fire strategy for a project. Building control acts as a conduit to local fire departments to assess that all fire regulations have been met, as well as bringing their own experience to bear.
In early 2007 I was working on a large refurbishment project in the West End. We were informed by the fire officer who was reviewing the project with us that in the near future fire officers would no longer play an active role.
A new form of self-certification was to be introduced, with the onus on the developer/owner to ensure a project met all fire regulations. This took no cognisance of the fact that different buildings could have very different fire requirements. The fire officer looked me straight in the eyes and told me that in his opinion this was a recipe for disaster.
The third part of the triple lock is to ensure that all materials used in a building are fit for purpose – obviously particularly important in the case of fire safety. In the past, architects have specified construction materials and have then been in a position to ensure that the specified materials were used. This is increasingly not the case as performance specifications enable alternative materials to be used, often selected by the developer, contractor or sub-contractors.
With architects now seldom having the authority to insist on specific products being used, there is a tendency to go for cheaper materials, without necessarily understanding the impact or potential knock-on effect.
Public safety should not be privatised. Putting a monetary value on human lives is unacceptable. The triple lock should be recognised and strengthened.
Bring back building control to its rightful place in local authorities, working independently of the planning function and the private sector. Bring back fire officers working closely with council building control to scrutinise proposals and carry out proper inspections on all projects. Bring back the specification of materials to a single point of responsibility under the architect or engineer responsible for the specification of materials, working with the building control officer and fire officer.
Allow the experts to do what they know best without interference from politicians or those who tend to take shortcuts or the cheapest option. Look where that has got us.