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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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.

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