Architects tap into their inner chi

Fresh design approach for learning disability development

Architects have tapped into their inner chi to produce empathetic designs for a special project.

Award-winning Niven Architects, based in Darlington, has designed a scheme to provide eight individual apartments for residents with learning difficulties at the Larchfield Community site at Hemlington near Middlesbrough.

The courtyard complex features eight individual apartments containing a lounge, kitchen diner, bedrooms with en-suite facilities, private gardens and a communal lounge, kitchen, guest room and live-in space for carers.

The stakeholders were insistent that the design process was truly ‘inclusive’, rather than just being ‘paid lip service’ to. Residents and their families met fortnightly with the design team where information about the size, layout and access initially and then, later colours, fixtures and fittings were provided and discussed. Both the management and design team helped the residents, who have a wide range of learning difficulties, to make decisions that reflected their aspirations for their homes.

Using Building Information Modelling (BIM) enabled the members of the community to visualise their new homes with greater ease of understanding. Any adjustments were able to be made swiftly and cost effectively. The project is now to be referenced by the local social work department as a model for the transition of young people into adult services due to successful way in which the planning and design of the building supported their very complex needs.

Mike English, general manager, said: “The Niven team have been passionate from the start, delivering a building that is very much fit for purpose, caters for very specific individual needs, while being attentive to future-proofing the building for the changing needs of those who will be living there.”

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