It's been a while since BWTAS heard from the architect Stephen Luxford. When Southern Water unloaded a portfolio of properties in 2004, he purchased at auction the Braithwaite water tower at the former Greenham Common airbase and then got planning permission to convert it into a house (first picture). That was a bit of a shock to the local council as they expected buyers would cut it up for scrap and put a traditional house on the plot.
(BWTAS members report that the rising price of scrap metal has hastened the demise of several old Braithwaite towers in Norfolk very recently.)
When Stephen contacted BWTAS, we were very pleased to be able to provide him with evidence of several similar tower conversions and we like to think that this eased his planning application or at least put his mind to rest that it wasn't such an impossible dream. There's nothing new in converting a Braithwaite water tower to become a house. This was done with the 'House in the Clouds' at Thorpeness in 1923 (very last picture below).
Stephen's orginal design created modules that were inserted through the beams, rather like the solution done with the Mouchel concrete tower at Ashford, as seen on Channel 4's Grand Designs (second from last below).
Stephen now reports that he has "now got planning permission for a slightly altered scheme which (you may see as unfortunate!) that clads the existing steel structure. I have however used the new cladding module to relate to the original Braithwaite system and windows to the lower parts punch between the existing cross bracing structure. The original scheme still has consent but it was proving a tricky construction route thus the revised scheme. Due to my own workload I have recently put the tower on the market for sale (with detailed planning consent) – so if one of your members fancies owning and converting their very own tower - let me know! Offers in the region of £100k at this stage. A build cost estimate is tricky because of unusual nature of the build but at £1200 to £1500/m.sq (quite a high rate). it would be in the region of £160k to £200k."
So it's now up to the client; expose the supports or clad them?
There's also another architectural treatment such a tower could have.
The site is listed with Buildstore www.buildstore.co.uk You have to be a member to view details though as it’s a website aimed at self-builder. There is a pack of information with drawings etc. that Stephen can send if people want to make contact directly.
Luxford Architects Limited
28 Lugard Road
T 020 7732 3718
M 0771 498 1978