Green scheme stays true to its vision and survives the recession
A green dream to create Britain’s most eco-friendly flats has come true. Sharon Dale reports.
THE apartment boom in Leeds sparked a macho contest over who could build the biggest, the best and the “blingiest” block of flats.
Few lived up to expectations and even those that did could be condemned as all “fur coat and no knickers” compared to a newly-completed development on the fringe of the city centre.
Greenhouse in Beeston is the most eco-friendly apartment scheme in Britain and close to zero carbon emissions.
Stripping the former Shaftesbury House workers’ hostel down to its skeleton, developers Citu packed the building with insulation and topped it with two wind turbines that help to light the corridors and power the lifts.
Ground source heat pumps work with 44 solar panels to bring hot water and warmth into the flats, ground floor offices, gym and deli.
A heat exchange system brings in fresh air and allows excess heat to be transferred so redundant energy generated from the offices during the day can be used to warm water for residents in the evening.
Grey water is collected from rainfall on the roof and from showers and washing machines. It is then filtered and used to flush the toilets.
Even the numbers on the doors are green – made from recycled yoghurt pots.
But to make the building this sustainable, the enthusiastic and hands-on young development team at Citu, headed by MD Chris Thompson, development manager Karen Stafeckis and marketing director Fraser Stride have sacrificed a slice of profit.
The eco elements added 10 per cent to the build and the plant rooms needed to house the green technology ate into internal space.
In a move that would make most profit-hungry property developers shudder, Citu also shunned traditional telephone, TV and video entry cabling and splashed out on a sophisticated IP network that delivers everything through the TV.
You get TV channels, films, an interactive community noticeboard, door entry services and even local bus and train information. Most importantly your TV brings what Chris calls “the modern day equivalent of the 50p meter”.
A utilities page reveals the energy usage for your flat plus itemised bills for heat, electricity, cold water, hot water and grey water.
“There is no point having a green building if people waste energy. The energy monitoring really makes you think.
“I washed the floors of a penthouse apartment this morning and when I checked I found I’d used 20 litres of hot water, which cost £1,” says Fraser.
The only slight compromise in the building is its location in Beeston. Its energy-generating technologies could only be bought by building in a gritty area, where the price of land is cheap. Though Beeston was upand-coming at the tail end of the property boom and is only 10 or 15 minutes walk or drive from the city centre, it is still edgy.
“It needed to be a brownfield site in a fringe urban location. It’s allowed us to create what we wanted and keep the price of the apartments low. Plus there is a lot of regeneration going on here and it’s great to be part of that,” says Fraser.
Greenhouse has 166 studio, one-, two-and three-bedroom homes and prices start from £59,000 for a studio, while a roomy three-bedroom penthouse costs £237,000.
Most of the investors and owner occupiers who bought off plan have stuck with the scheme, CITU have kept 20 flats to let and there are 46 left to sell.
Marketing the finished product for sale and rent is made easier thanks to its eco credentials, promising heating bills 60 per cent cheaper than the average flat. The apartments are also slightly larger than those in LS1.
“We’re really pleased because our rental agents are telling us that people are choosing Greenhouse over developments in the city centre. We are different and people love what we’ve done, which is encouraging,” says Fraser.
Even more impressive is that Greenhouse was built against the odds. It was barely underway when the credit crunch killed off scores of developments.
It survived thanks to the determination of its bright young team and the support of the Co-operative Bank.
“It was a toss up between RBS and Co-op and we chose the Coop because of their ethical approach. If we hadn’t then I don’t think we’d be here,” says Karen.
Every day of the build brought a new challenge, sourcing green materials was time consuming and there were endless sets of scientific calculations.
“The 80 metre bore holes to access ground source heat were the biggest risk. Even after surveys you don’t know what you’re going to find until you start drilling down and you can end up with just a very expensive hole in the ground,” says Karen.
Citu is now based at Greenhouse and will manage the site. They are also discussing how to take their concept to other areas. “It’s inspired a lot of interest from other companies and we have got some other sites in mind,” says Chris.
Greenhouse, Leeds, is staging an open day today from noon to 6pm, hosted by MP Hilary Benn. www.greenhouse leeds.co.uk
For more details, visit www.greenhouseleeds.co.uk
NEAR-ZERO CARBON: The wind turbines which help to power lights and lifts are one of the energy-saving systems at the Greenhouse in Beeston, Leeds.
FRINGE BENEFITS: The contemporary flats are situated in Beeston, 10-15 minutes from the centre of Leeds.