Moulding the future from the past

A new housing development in Widnes, built on the site of the former Queen’s Hall music venue – previously home to famous Bands such as the Beatles – has won an environmental and architectural heritage award for its innovative approach to environmental sustainability.

Queens Court, in the centre of old Widnes town centre, has been developed by the Halton Housing Trust to create 17 apartments of affordable housing for local people. Architects, Denovo Design worked closely with both the local authority and the Housing trust to provide a project that would act as a catalyst for further re-generation of the Town.

The concept of the scheme, a centre-piece of the Council’s ongoing new build programme, was to create a ‘living space’ with health and well-being integral to the design and construction. The apartments all have access to open space, balconies or terraces and all bedrooms face the internal landscaped courtyard.

According to the Council’s planning officer, ‘innovative design and attention to detail pays homage to the site’s former use while making a very positive contribution to the character and quality of the area’

Innovation in both design and construction has been key to the accolades received by the Housing Trust. Denovo’s design director, said that it was one of the most interesting and unusual projects he had worked on, adding that the design ensured that light and space were maximised.

One of the key criteria laid down by the Council was that the external materials would take their inspiration from the surrounding buildings to create a harmonious street scene. This, therefore, meant that the external walls would be built using a red facing brick, used extensively throughout the old Town, while the window surrounds and copings would reflect the art deco style of the adjacent buildings.

This threw down a number of challenges for the architects. They had to ensure that not only did the construction materials match the surroundings but that they had high performance thermal insulation and were energy sustainable. To comply with the innovative and ecological considerations they turned to Build-Lite UK, to create the Portland stone window surrounds and parapet copings.

Constructed from Stone-Coat, a revolutionary lightweight material, that can be manufactured to any profile or shape, the material gives the outward appearances of traditional stone but is substantially lighter. This provides for a safe and easy installation combined with an improved carbon footprint over conventional stone products.

According to the architects, Denovo Design, ‘the success of this project was based on a combination of environmentally sustainable design elements and innovative construction materials. The use of Build Lite UK architectural mouldings for the Portland stone coloured window surroundings and coping enabled us to create a development that is fully sympathetic to its heritage and surroundings’