Eco-homes meet Goldsmith standard
New social housing in Norwich does more than tick a few green boxes, says Helen Leith
We read a lot these days about the demise of social housing, with cash-strapped local authorities under increasing pressure to raise capital from selling off land and property, so it is heartening to know that our very own Norwich City Council is bucking this trend by investing in a forward-thinking development of PassivHaus standard social housing, on a former brownfield site, right in the heart of the city.
Based in Goldsmith Street, off the Dereham Road, this multiaward winning development, comprises of 60 flats and 45 houses designed by architects Mikhail Riches and has taken its design inspiration from traditional Victorian terraced houses, looking towards each other in a safe, enclosed environment, including a childrens’ play area, to create a feeling of being part of a community.
Using attractive light-coloured brick, soft curves and sharp angles, there is a pleasing variation of styles and sizes amongst the replication of the standard design to keep it interesting. Importantly, all the dwellings are designed to high PassivHaus standards, making it the largest PassivHaus scheme for social rent in the country.
PassivHaus standards means designing ultra-efficient buildings which require little or no energy for heating or cooling. As well as reducing that building’s carbon footprint, energy bills can be reduced by as much as 70%, a major driver against fuel poverty in social housing.
Air quality is also improved, helping to reduce symptoms associated with asthma or allergies. The whole development makes a welcome and refreshing change from the excessively loud and exasperatingly unimaginative out-of-town greenfield developments which so many modern house builders seem to favour, with very few striving for good quality design,
Modern, highquality PassivHaus standard homes being built in Norwich
eco-standards, minimal visual or environmental intrusion on our precious countryside, and which cause so much affront to so many people.
Goldsmith Street proves that good housing can be achieved, and, encouragingly, at no more cost than average house-building costs, so, in the absence of minimum legal requirements, there really is no excuse not to be emulating this standard across the country. Indeed, so successful has this development proved that the architects and the city council are regularly asked to talk to other local authorities about how they can follow suit.
Amongst the added extra bonuses of this development has been the learning of PassivHaus standard skills and subsequent accreditation by the builders RG Carter which will obviously prove increasingly useful. The development is now nearing completion, with several of the houses and flats already occupied by happy tenants. Goldsmith Street follows other successful similar schemes at Carrowbreck Meadows and Three Score, showing that Norwich City Council is striving hard to demonstrate the viability of PassivHaus and the part it can play in the future of responsible housing.
Unsurprisingly, Goldsmith Street has won several awards: it was project winner at the 2016 Housing Design Awards, made it into The Times Architectural Top Ten for 2018, and was winner in the Green Build category at the CPRE Norfolk Awards in November 2018.
Photo: Mikhail Riches