The UK’s first Passivhaus extra care home, Exeter City Council’s innovative new Edward’s Court extra care scheme provides 53 one and two bedroom mixed tenure apartments. Designed to encourage community and companionship among its residents and neighbours, a variety of communal areas are interspersed throughout the building, on the rooftop, and in the garden walkways and terraces.
With in-depth research into dementia support and new design thinking, Architype has created a healthy, homely and sociable environment where residents can safely maintain an independent lifestyle with various levels of support and care. Designed specifically to address the mental and physical needs of an older demographic, these welcoming ‘homes for life’ encourage movement and social inclusion, helping relieve demands on the NHS.
To meet Exeter City Council’s demanding sustainability and health and wellbeing standards, the low-energy Passivhaus design also helps address fuel poverty by radically cutting heating bills and is climate-proofed to 2080.
- Completion date
- Autumn 2021
- £12 million
- Gross Internal Floor Area
- 4457 m2
Architype held in-depth consultations and regular reviews with key stakeholders to maintain rigorous ISO design quality standards throughout the process. They consulted with residents and staff at extra care facilities across the UK, including at Architype-designed Cator Street Extra Care in Central London, which followed similar Passivhaus principles and high quality design for an older demographic. The team also drew on the firm’s experience designing St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford, which focused on de-institutionalising residential medical facilities.
The development was guided by seven key principles:
- Performance and comfort
- Operational efficiency
- Creating internal communities/integration
- Connecting with the external community
- Integrating the surrounding built environment
The design breaks up the mass of the building, supported through interesting choices of colour and texture, including an intricate brick façade which uses a range of pattern techniques to disperse the exterior mass and offer definition. Inside, the building mass is broken up by well-lit day areas that connect visually with the flats, so residents can see who is out and about without having to leave their apartments.
Communal spaces such as lounges, dining rooms, a music room and hobby rooms are interspersed throughout the building. Every apartment is no more than two units away from a communal area. Open to the local community, residents can interact easily and autonomously with non-residents on the top-floor beauty salon, day spa with assisted bath space, restaurant and rooftop bar area.
The interactive garden is landscaped for accessibility and sociability with routed walkways, clustered seating areas, a potting shed for keen gardeners and raised borders allowing easy access for wheelchair users. The welcoming building sits over five and four storeys, stepping down to sit sympathetically among neighbouring structures. Each unit has its own balcony, while south-facing terraces overlook the gardens and the River Exe and valley beyond.
Design elements address the needs of residents with dementia, including:
- Spaces for safe wandering, with no dead-end corridors or repetitive spaces
- Connective areas and corridors with distinctive changes of direction, resting places and windows, communal and break-out areas
- Colour and texture to support wayfinding
- A viewing window from each flat into the corridor space for personalisation and to aid recognition
Contrasting floors, walls and ceilings help visually impaired residents. For example, the design avoids shiny surfaces and patterns, tp avoid confusion and all signs are also in braille. The building is kept secure with simple, user-friendly access control. Robust, low energy, heating and ventilation systems and a design that mitigates overheating ensures residents maintain a safe and healthy core temperature, which is critical to the health of older people. Internally, one kitchen window faces onto another, so that if a neighbour’s blind isn’t raised as usual in the morning, a resident can raise the alarm.
Designed for choice: privacy or sociability
The convivial design of the building does not preclude privacy – there are many quiet and secluded spots in and outside the building. From the vantage point of their apartment, residents can see if there is anyone free to meet in their nearest communal area. This is particularly important for residents who might find the short journey a strain, whether physically or mentally. For some residents, it is comforting to know people are around, even if they can’t interact that day, or just don’t feel like it.
Similarly, each apartment’s balcony is visually open and angled so residents can choose to sit privately or engage with fellow neighbours also enjoying the climbing planters and fresh air. This kind of design element has proven significant for health and wellbeing of the elderly population during the COVID pandemic.
SustainabilityPassivhaus design for low energy use
The Passivhaus building means residents can enjoy a consistent and comfortable ambient temperature maintained with little or no heating or cooling. The ultra low energy demand cuts fuel poverty and is due to the air-tight nature of the fabric, high levels of insulation, high performing windows and mechanical heating ventilation (MVHR) with efficient heat recovery.
Building Biology for a natural, healthy environment
A priority for Exeter City Council, the building aligns with the Building Biology Association’s 25 Guiding Principles of Building Biology for a healthy, beautiful and sustainable building in an ecologically sound and socially connected community.
It reduces physical, chemical and biological risks and eliminates toxic materials and electro-magnetic radiation. Materials are as natural as possible, with particular care made to avoid skin irritants and ensure optimum air quality. Paints are natural and timber is lacquered rather than oiled to reduce VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are hazardous to human health. To keep dust and particulate matter levels low surfaces that more easily collect duct such as carpets have been avoided. Fibre insulation has been selected on the basis of having the lowest formaldehyde content possible.
Following Exeter Council’s Design for Future Climate Change, Architype used Exeter University’s PROMETHEUS weather data to climate-proof the building to 2080, so it can adapt to changing climates such as rising temperatures and storms.
Architype plans building performance evaluation research to ensure the building is performing to the satisfaction of users and residents.
- Project Manager
- Structural Engineer
- Price & Myers
- M&E Engineer
- E3 Consulting Engineers
- Landscape architects
- Churchman Thornhill Finch
- SOLK Photography