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Talking point: Design codes


Design codes work. They foster dialogue. They break down barriers. And they get people talking. Design codes in fact, provide the common ground for everyone invested in a building project – the community, the developer, the local authority. In short, a good design code, is everybody’s friend.

Design codes help architects, consultants and builders, deliver better buildings: better for users (the best design codes respond to how we live) for the neighbourhood (a good design code thrives on context) and the planet (by promoting sustainable design). That’s our experience a least. And it’s why we both use – and produce - them at Pollard Thomas Edwards.

Our Cherry Hinton North Design Code (also called ‘Springstead Village') for example, devised and delivered with landscape architect McGregor Coxall, provides a blueprint for housebuilder development in Cambridgeshire that is less car-focused, and more walkable, sociable, greener, and energy efficient.

It’s been noticed too, by industry, winning the 2023 Landscape Institute award for Excellence in Landscape Planning and Assessment earlier this month.

Another design code we produced, for Marleigh, also in Cambridge, was commended in the RTPI’s 2023 awards, for Excellence in Planning for Communities (large schemes).

Marleigh, Cambridge

These successes have led to Cambridge City Council’s ‘Inspired Living’ project (in partnership with the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service) to ask PTE to create a design code for the city’s existing northern neighbourhoods including Arbury, Kings Hedges and parts of West Chesterton wards which we’re working on now, drawing upon digital and face-to-face engagement and co-production workshops with local residents.

A design code for Northern Cambridge neighbourhoods

In truth, even when there’s no ‘official’ design code required, we think providing an early doors quality and place code to guide the project still underpins our best work. From the RIBA-Award winning The Avenue, in Saffron Walden, which policy wonks noticed and put on the cover of the Government’s National Model Design Code document (even though The Avenue used PTE’s in-house kit-of-parts code) to Beechwood Village in Basildon, currently vying for a RIBA award. If it lands the coveted gong, it will surely be the only winner ever to have been co-designed by residents who used an online configurator to select their plot, house type, the number of bedrooms as well as pick external finishes such as brick type and even amend their plan.

The Avenue, Saffron Walden

Beechwood Village, Basildon

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Practice architecture as a means towards an end