Eco-homes meet Gold­smith stan­dard

New so­cial hous­ing in Nor­wich does more than tick a few green boxes, says He­len Leith

EDP Norfolk - - EYE ON THE COUNTY - EYE ON THE COUNTY He­len Leith direc­tor, Cam­paign for the Pro­tec­tion of Ru­ral Eng­land Nor­folk,

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

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