The future home is centred around comfort

Written By
The Davidson Prize


We spoke with 2024 Davidson Prize Jury Chair Amandeep Singh Kalra, Associate Director at Be First, about retrofit policy and the emotional impact of the home.

What will you be looking for as a judge of the 2024 Davidson Prize?

I seek those instances when an idea strikes you, and you find yourself exclaiming, "Why hasn't someone thought of this before? It's so obvious!" While these moments are rare, they bring immense joy when they occur. Whether it's an innovative concept or a unique approach to repurposing that may not be immediately apparent, I'm drawn to the brilliance that defies conventional thinking.

Additionally, when presenting a singular image or a billboard-style pitch, it's crucial to me that it possesses the ability to captivate from a distance and entice further exploration. Having the most brilliant idea is futile if it can't be effectively communicated, especially through a compelling visual medium in this particular context.

If you were Housing Minister for a day what single measure would you put in place to start tackling the housing crisis?

Similar to how we establish targets for the construction of new homes (such as the annual goal of 300k), which forms the basis for national policies and grants, I propose adopting a parallel approach for retrofitting existing structures. By defining annual targets, shaping policies accordingly, and establishing funding resources dedicated to its effective implementation, we can ensure the successful advancement of retrofit initiatives.

Is there an example of residential adaptive reuse that really stands out to you, and why?

Astley Castle stands out as one of my favourite adaptive reuse projects. Originally a fortified castle, it underwent a transformation into residential accommodation by Withford Watson Mann, providing a retreat for those seeking a break. This remarkable structure, once in ruins, has been meticulously repurposed. What appeals to me is the subtle integration of contemporary elements into the existing ruins, avoiding an attempt to overly refurbish it. The rooms boast spacious layouts and lofty ceilings, complemented by a design ethos centered around sustainability, evident in the choice of materials and the installation of a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) for heating. During my four-night stay with a group of friends, we were all profoundly moved by the harmonious interplay between the new additions and the castle's robust historic presence.

The Davidson Prize is all about the communication of brilliant design ideas. What scope do you see for better communication of architectural ideas and intentions to wider audiences as the digital era evolves?

There are several existing tools in the market that many designers have been incorporating into their design process, such as VR/AR tech. However, I am eager to see how designers can harness the power of AI-based tools, such as DALL·E or others, to generate visualisations in real time. This allows audiences to swiftly witness their ideas materialise into reality. This is poised to be the industry's next significant revolution since the introduction of digitised drawing through CAD.

What alternative sustainable building material is most exciting/stands out the most to you?

Bricks! While not a new concept, they are expected to remain the most widely used material in UK construction for many decades. Exciting innovations are emerging in this field, like Kenoteq, which produces unfired bricks utilising 90% recycled construction waste. Additionally, some manufacturers crush discarded bricks to 3D print new ones. The possibilities for innovation in brick construction are limitless and I’d love to see this material we all love take on a new lease of life.

What does the home of the future look like to you?

The future home is centred around comfort, enhancing my health, and offering maximum flexibility to accommodate my changing needs, both now and in the future.

Beneath these key priorities, there is a need for a well-designed Passivhaus-led building that sustains ambient temperatures throughout the year, utilises natural materials, and offers adaptable designs capable of evolving with my requirements.

While the aesthetics of the home are largely a matter of personal choice, I believe the emotional impact a home should have is a more universally felt aspect.

What are some easy ways for architects and designers to take part in the circular economy?

I believe we exist in a world now where we perceive it as having infinite resources, whereas the reality is quite the opposite.

If architects established some straightforward principles during the initial stages of designing their buildings, it could result in structures constructed entirely from existing resources.

I propose framing this challenge with the analogy of "what am I making for dinner tonight" and "what is available in the fridge." This approach establishes finite conditions, fostering creativity.

Example Guidelines:

1. Design exclusively with materials that have had a previous life or possess a guaranteed afterlife.

2. If there is an existing building, it must be reused 100%, either through refurbishment or redevelopment.

3. Prioritize locally sourced materials within a 50 miles radius

4. Design with spaces to dimensions of standard supplied sheet materials only