The building is respectful of its sensitive context alongside the Torriano Cottages Conservation Area. It replaced a redundant 1970s office block, and employment use has been reprovided as speculative commercial space. The design creatively addresses issues of privacy, amenity and density on the constrained urban site.
The external materials have been chosen to be robust and of high quality. Restrained brown brick and untreated zinc are enlivened by slatted timber accent panels and bright green glazed brick.
A central walkway gives access to the student accommodation and a landscaped garden containing timber and zinc bicycle and refuse stores. The commercial unit has its own entrance from the street.
The ground floor of the student wing contains communal and ancillary uses, such as a laundry and staff office, adjacent to the street and studios overlooking the garden. A stair and lift core leads to three identical floors above, made up of four different studio types. The fourth floor accommodates larger studios and flats. These strata of uses are expressed through the cladding materials: glazed brick for the ground floor communal areas, brown brick for the studios, and zinc for the top floor flats.
The development, which has achieved a Very Good BREEAM rating, incorporates many environmental measures. Twenty percent of its energy demand is provided by wood-fuelled biomass heating. FSC-certified timber is used throughout - including larch cladding, a sustainable alternative to Western Red Cedar. Other materials and products, such as water-based finishes and recycled newspaper pinboards, have been specified for their low environmental impact. Rainwater harvesting and soft planting ensure water is conserved and run-off is minimised. Native plant species have been selected for the roofs, planted wall and wildflower meadow to encourage biodiversity.