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Jo Cowen Architects on Cambridge Build-to-rent

Portrait of Jo Cowen, CEO, and co-founder Jo Cowen Architects

Future Cities Forum is delighted that the award-winning architect Jo Cowen will be speaking at our 'Science Cities and the Arc' forum this week at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She will be speaking alongside the Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith, CBRE's Senior Director of Occupier Transactions, Chris Williams and the former Director of Estates at Cambridge University, Dr Jason Matthews who is now advising on the Oxford North project of science laboratories and homes, next to Wolvercote in the north of the city - for St John's College Oxford.

Jo co-founded her London-based firm, Jo Cowen Architects, in 2012 and leads a team of 35 architects designing housing developments and mixed use. Born in South Africa, she moved to London to study at Westminster School of Architecture and then worked for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

Her firm has just been appointed to develop a £160 million project of build to rent housing at Eddington in North West Cambridge, funded by Apache Capital's Present Made platform on the Cambridge University owned development. There will be a mix of flats and family homes - some 400 in total - with sustainability at the core of the design. The vision is to create a place offering a high quality life to enhance both the City and the University of Cambridge. The use of resources aims to minimise carbon emissions and pollution to help the environment now and in the future.

Jo said:

'We design neighbourhoods as frameworks for diversity. We amplify the unique elements of briefs and sites to create places that have a distinct and long-lasting character.'

Cambridge University has established a strategy to tackle the problem of housing shortage for university staff and key workers and has built a new community at Eddington, north west of the city but with transport links to the centre. Director of Estates, Graham Matthews told the Future Cities Forum earlier this year that the mission of providing key worker housing was at the centre of its plan:

'When market housing is broadly out of reach, how do we attract talent, operational staff and researchers to work for us when most accommodation is quite a long way from the city.?

'We established a strategy to tackle this problem, to develop significant volumes of key worker housing. When the metro system is built, Eddington will only be a couple of stops to the centre. Three thousand small housing units are available with a substantial number for key workers and facilities for a complete community. It is built on a greenfield site with over 100,000 square meters of research space and graduate rooms, a community centre and hotel, a large care home, retail, a school and a nursery.

'The university adopted a carbon zero strategy for 2038 in its design. How to reduce carbon emissions from the 700 buildings that make up the university is a challenge but at Eddington, there were proposals from the outset for a low carbon estate. At the moment, all heating is on a district heating system and over the next 18 months we will move to a water heat pump solution. '

'The Eddington model can be transported to other cities. It is based on our research from around the world. But I would stress again that the important key here is community and place and integration of industry with commerce. Deriving our masterplan depended on community - otherwise it would have failed. Facilities must be put in ahead of the housing. We want to attract people out onto street and attract buzz.'


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