Thursday, 03 December 2020
A University of Nottingham architecture student has won a Government-backed competition to design new “homes fit for the future” with her imaginative and socially-responsible idea to bring nature back to the urban environment.
The Home of 2030 contest asked architecture students from across the UK to submit affordable, high-quality, low-carbon and age-friendly housing concepts in its Young Persons’ Design Challenge.
Three undergraduates from the Department of Architecture and Built Environment submitted socially-minded designs that tackle loneliness, climate change and food insecurity. Each imaginative design was intended to transform disused land in The Meadows area of Nottingham.
Rachael Milliner, 23, from Bristol, who has an Architecture and Environmental Design MEng from the University of Nottingham, won not only the 18-25 age category but also the overall competition, with her submission ‘Urban co-Existing’. The concept placed an urban farm at the heart of a novel co-housing scheme which aimed to reinvigorate sustainable, urban living. Her winning idea focused on a harmonious co-existence of community and nature, which would provide residents with sustainable access to healthy food and shared goals and economic benefits. She has won £1,500 in prize money. You can watch Rachael’s video here.
‘Urban co-Existing’ is a co-living social housing unit for people to whom currently sustainable housing is not financially accessible. This is a project that, over the centenary of the Addison Act, creatively explored how to reintroduce sustainability to housing design with social and environmental justice as the design driver.
“11% of homes in the UK are reported to be in fuel poverty as use of food banks only increases. The concept of this design harnesses solar gain as an environmental strategy and to grow food. Architecture that’s not just sustainable but productive.
“Co-living allows sharing of resources and fosters community. By decentralising our resources and living with an intent of sustainability, throughout the entire life cycle of the building, a new typology can be introduced into the urban environment to help tackle the housing crisis whilst living in ways kinder to our planet,” Rachael adds.
Fellow University of Nottingham graduate Ella Rogers, 22, from Rugby in Warwickshire, was declared runner up in the 18-25 year category, for her idea of co-housing for older women to solve social isolation within older generations. This is based on research showing that in the UK, 3.64 million people over the age of 65 live alone and that nearly 70 per cent of these are women. Ella’s thoughtful design gives residents who live alone opportunity to socialise and support one another while retaining their privacy and independence. As runner up she has taken home £750. You can hear from Ella here.
Former University of Nottingham BArch student, Henri Kopra, 23, from Tallin in Estonia, also reached the final of the Young Persons’ Design Challenge with his imagining of a housing environment that fostered a community support network for single parents and their children.
The trio all graduated this summer and studied together on the Unit 5A design studio module: ‘Sustainable Communities’, which inspired their Home of 2030 submissions.
During the course, Rachael, Ella and Henri worked with Nottingham City homes and a dozen city residents on collaborative projects that would explore the meaning of sustainable communities. Most influential among these was 100 years of Council Housing, a project celebrating the centenary of the Addison Act which first enshrined the building of new council “homes fit for heroes” after soldiers returned from World War I often to substandard slums. Nottingham was an early adopter and has a large number of council-built estates - showcasing different architectural styles and influences - which are now managed by Nottingham City Homes.
The experience debunked preconceptions among the student cohort of what it means to be a council housing tenant and served as an eye-opener of how important architecture with a social benefit can be to society and practice.
As part of their work with Nottingham City Homes, Rachael, Ella and Henri, devised a sustainably-responsible housing solution that would transform redundant car garages in The Meadows. Residents often complain that these abandoned storage sites are now an eyesore and magnet for antisocial behaviour and were enthusiastic to see how their purpose could be reimagined in a progressive way that would reflect the strong community spirit of The Meadows. It was these concepts that were submitted and triumphed at the Home of 2030 contest.
Dan Lucas, Nottingham City Homes’ lead for the project, said, “This was a great initiative to work on, and added a hugely significant dimension to our celebrations of 100 years of council housing celebrations in 2019, which saw events delivered across the city throughout the year. As a company we are committed to building high quality, well designed council housing to meet local housing needs, so it was great to work with students to look deeper into this vision.
“Social housing tenants and students worked together to deliver the design charrette, and the outcomes, including this award for (Name), are a fantastic legacy of the project, and is the celebration of 100 years of council housing in Nottingham. I would like to thank the tenants and residents involved, who helped by showing students round their homes, estates and neighbourhoods.”
“I’m delighted for Rachael on her win. Her design showed deep sophistication and resolve to overcome one of the biggest challenges we face as a society today. All the students worked with flair and commitment and engaged whole-heartedly with local people on their real-world research. The tide is really turning on what a fulfilling career in architecture means, with more emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility at its heart. I couldn’t be prouder of the whole cohort, they are a very inspiring with a bright future ahead.”
Rachael, who is now on an internship at Jan Braker Architects in Hamburg, said that even being in the final of Home of 2030 had opened doors she didn’t expect. And she, along with Ella Rogers, were recently invited to a roundtable to advise on the Government’s Planning White Paper.
Rachael said: “For someone whose ambition is to contribute positive change to the housing situation in our country – it felt like a big achievement.
Rachael was announced the winner by TV presenter and architect George Clarke and congratulated by Christopher Pincher MP, Housing and Planning Minister, at the national Homes UK conference on Thursday 3 December.
George Clarke, founder of educational charity MOBIE who managed the competition, said: “We launched this Young Persons’ challenge at the beginning of this year and following an incredible response from schools, colleges and universities across the country we have had a heart searching process of longlisting, two rounds of shortlisting and a final selection of finalists. Many congratulations to Rachael who is a worthy overall winner and congratulations to all the students who have taken part”.
On her win she said: “It feels great to be commended for succeeding in something I am so passionate about, and it will feel even better when schemes like all of those proposed for this competition are integrated into the fabric of our urban environment.”
In collaboration with the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), the RIBA, Building Research Establishment and the Design Council, the Homes for 2030 competition was launched to demonstrate innovative solutions to two of the Government’s Grand Challenges – ‘Ageing Society’ and ‘Clean Growth’.
The Homes of 2030 Challenge aims to recognise the ‘highest standards of age-adaptable design’ and follows the government’s recent consultation on a Future Homes Standard, which would require all new homes built from 2025 to have 80 per cent less carbon emissions.
Post-event, the competition aims to link the winners of the Young Persons Design Challenge with winners from the Professional Design Competition to help them gain a first-hand insight into architectural practice.
Rachael and Ella also plan to donate a portion of their prize money to the Grenfell Foundation, which provides independent support to former residents of Grenfell Tower affected by the fatal fire of 2017.
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Notes to editors:
About the University of Nottingham
Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.
Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.
The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.
We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.