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The Lakes by Yoo – Riko’s success story: 15 years later

Cotswolds, United Kingdom, 21. 9. 2021

The idyllic village of Lechlade in English Cotswolds, characterised by picturesque traditional villages, imposing stately homes and natural landscapes, is home to one of the most successful property developments in the world – The Lakes by Yoo, which is becoming an example par excellence in the property world. One of the most prominent developers of real estate potential, John Hitchcox and his studio Yoo, has succeeded in transforming a once degraded gravel pit site into a prestigious development of second homes that has outgrown itself due to extraordinary interest. A feel of the market and its potential, the right vision and a carefully crafted development strategy, the connexion with the right partners and a sustainable concept have created high added value for the project and new perspectives. Fifteen years ago, Riko began to participate in the project with its system of timber frame construction. It is Riko who signs off on the construction of the prestigious timber frame villas of The Lakes by Yoo project.

Riko's team visiting The Lakes in 2006
Riko's team visiting The Lakes in 2006


For Riko, the history of the project dates back to 2006, when the builders were convinced not only by the numerous important references in the  construction of residential houses and public buildings, but also by the high-quality  timber frame construction system, the sustainable approach and the flexible structure of their business. This method ensures customisation to the client's expectations and support in all implementation processes.  The real estate developer John Hitchcox has dedicated the project to those who seek tranquillity and an idyllic rural setting, who  appreciate sustainable highlights, a comprehensive approach to the management of the settlement and a first-class design of the houses. In addition to Phillip Starck, the renowned designers Kelly Hoppen, Jade Jagger andMarcel Wanders in particular are involved in the design of the show house together with the Yoo office

The project initially started on 240 hectares of land with only five artificial lakes at the time. Houses with an area of 90 m2 (2 bedrooms), 115 m2 (3 bedrooms) and 180 m2 (3 bedrooms) were initially planned on the formerly disused sand pit site.

To date, 15 years after construction began, the area of the settlement has grown to 350 hectares due to the extraordinary demand for the gradual acquisition of additional land. New artificial lakes have been created and the size of the houses ranges from 600 to 900m2.  

The Lakes resort today

All the houses are closely linked to the landscape and the settlement itself acts as a conservation area, so everything, including the houses, must be geared towards preserving it. The villas are low-energy houses, using the lake as an energy source for heating and cooling, and electricity is generated by  photovoltaic panels. Thanks to the timber construction, the houses fit perfectly into the natural environment.

The resort, which is 130 km or less than two hour drive from London, has a ‘second home’ character, as the owners are not allowed to live here for more than eleven months of the year. This prestigious gated holiday development includes the rest of the important infrastructure (swimming pool, spa, sports activities, etc.) in addition to owner-occupied holiday homes and rental houses (for a minimum of one week). Prices are commensurate - prices for a single house (excluding land) start at £740,000 and go up to several million pounds.

The houses are bought by wealthy buyers of various profiles from all over the world, working in an international environment and mostly living in London. They have a good understanding of the concept of a secured development near a major city, which they are familiar with elsewhere in Europe. From the start of construction to the present, this real estate project has survived two economic downturns. In the interim, the builders have changed the business model as the buying power of people who afford smaller homes has declined. After the completion of four show houses and the onset of the first financial crisis, the segment of the first customers from the London financial jet set dried up overnight. After careful consideration of how to proceed, it became clear that the concept needed to be changed and focused on attracting customers from the wealthier classes who could still afford to buy. So builders have focused on a higher price range, buyers who do not need to rely on credit to invest in real estate, and have started building larger homes with more living space. Building a smaller number of larger houses proved to be a successful real estate project, and the builders also preserved enough space and distance between the houses.

It was necessary to adapt to the demands of the buyers for a greater influence in the design of houses. The houses were getting larger and more luxurious, and therefore more expensive (up to five times) compared to the original project.

Nevertheless, the area has retained its quality of life and the property its value. The builder acknowledges Riko’s  contribution to the development of the project and their effort to meet the challenges, especially thanks to his flexible work structure and the exceptional quality of the houses, which at the same time support a very clear environmental and sustainable direction of the development.

The key to success of the real estate project

On the site of the former sand pit, everything had to be created anew in addition to the actual infrastructure.  Among other things, the concept of community and connecting the residents of The Lakes resort with local people and locally grown food, as well as creating additional recreational facilities such as swimming pool, wellness centre, hotel with programs and activities based on local qualities and natural resources (sailing, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, cycling). They pay special attention to the youngest, offering them not only care but also carefully planned programs with a didactic touch. That's not all - their concierge service is of the highest standard, ensuring maximum comfort within the resort whilst exploring the idyllic Cotswold countryside, home to the village of Lechlade and The Lakes development. 

This prestigious development, where no house is built in advance for an unknown buyer, is already home to 130 timber frame villas built by Riko.

Shortly before construction began, the developer had the project evaluated by some major real estate appraisers, such as Knight Frank and Savills and others, in terms of future performance. Their response was negative, even advising against proceeding with the project. However, the concept of the resort with a clearly defined vision, the management system, a development axis with sustainable priorities, customer targeting, identifying customer’s true needs and the selection of participants proved to be a great success. Not just in Britain, but all over the world. First and foremost, as a resort that has distinguished itself as one of the most successful real estate development projects and recognised best practices in real estate – from the cheap acquisition of degraded land and the subsequent transformation and development of the settlement and the site, hand in hand with a continuous diagnosis and adaptation to the changing market situation (expanding the living areas and changing the architectural concept of the houses ) – to one of the most desirable residential landscapes  in Greater London for buyers of a higher price range. Reference architects and designers such as Philippe Starck, Kelly Hoppen, Jade Jagger, Marcel Wanders have also contributed to this success. They designed most of the houses, and some of them were also entrusted to Elle McPherson and Kate Moss. The builder also attributes the success to Riko, a company that guarantees high standards a sustainable quality in every aspect with its system of prefabricated timber frame construction.

Features of Riko’s timber frame construction

Not only wood as the most environmentally friendly material, but also the prefabrication correspond to the sustainable concept pursued by the builder. All construction elements of the timber frame house by Riko – exterior and interior walls, ceiling and roof structure – are prefabricated in the production hall. This, together with efficient pre-processing, speeds up assembly on site and eliminates any defects before the assembly. This construction method has less impact on the environment, does not cause noise and does not disturb the rich fauna of various bird species at the lakes where the homeowners also swim and sail. The 900m2 house is be built in 3 weeks up to the roofing. The facades of the houses are made of Siberian larch, which does not require painting for protection and greys quickly (the final uniform grey patina is achieved in about three years in the Atlantic climate. Riko's timber frame construction system is flexible, which facilitates the implementation of even the most demanding architectural plans and changes. Moreover, Riko's experts, with their knowledge and rich experience, support the construction and assembly at all stages. Because they are aware of every particularity and complexity of the project. They constantly optimise their processes and expand their knowledge, working closely with the most referenced experts, for example in the field of structural engineering. Their knowledge was indispensable when the number of floors increased. During this time, they have introduced a number of improvements in the use of materials, thermal conductivity, air tightness, improved logistics and technical solutions for faster and more efficient installation. These particular expertise and insight of Riko is at the highest possible level in Europe. Riko is also constantly investing in new technologies that improve and speed up the component manufacturing process. In addition to improving production processes, they have also optimised their logistics processes, both of which have reduced costs and lead times. What is happening on the construction site today was still in production two days ago. Or to put it another way, while the first truckload of components is assembled in England, the components for the 5th and 6th truckloads are manufactured in Ribnica. For a facility that Riko builds in one month, the local competition needs eight months. In addition, fast construction reduces investment risks and provides an argument when obtaining loans and negotiating favourable conditions for financing the construction. Riko builds houses all year round, the mild Atlantic climate makes it possible.

By constantly investing in the latest technology, improving the construction system, ensuring the highest possible quality, flexibility and absolute support from order to handover and maintenance of the facility during the warranty period, Riko successfully defies ever-increasing competition and has justified the trust of the builders of The Lakes project for 15 years. The builders not only appreciate the timber frame construction, but also Riko's sustainable attitude, investing in the local community, culture and art, the Škrabec homestead. In Riko, they have found a partner that embodies their own values. So, Brexit is not an obstacle to close cooperation in the years ahead.

The Lakes in the future

There is currently room for a few dozen more homes on the existing site, which has been partially expanded through the purchase of additional land. Given the current pandemic situation where wealthy buyers want to own properties outside the major estates and demand for country houses in the UK has risen by up to 40%, Riko expects to be working on this project for at least the next 3 years.   

John Hitchcox, owner of YOO, is looking to take the real estate concept that has proven to be a huge success in the event of The Lakes project and implement it in a variety of locations. Not only in the UK market, but also in France and Japan, he sees the potential for this, for which he has secured funding from private real estate funds within his own company YOO.

About Yoo

Biro Yoo, “a global brand of developers, placemakers and designers,” is planning resorts and similar projects around the world, from New York to Buenos Aires and as far as Marrakech. The Lakes by Yoo project is special because every detail of each home, unique in a special way, is meticulously controlled and managed, fulfilling the wishes of each buyer while creating what appears to be unified development of homes. As real estate developers who follow the right strategy, they create and transform the environment in which owners live and use on a daily basis, enhancing land, property and the environment, and also adding value to their own with this development.