Category Archives: Energy Conservation

Parc Hadau Net-Zero Housing Project in Wales

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Continuing our series of Case Studies relevant to the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) Parc Hadau is an innovative net-zero-carbon housing scheme in Wales that will be built from cross-laminated timber and be powered by renewable energy. Designed by Loyn & Co and landscape architects Farrer Huxley for Developer Sero Homes, the Parc Hadau neighbourhood comprises 35 eco-friendly dwellings on a scrubland site in Pontardawe.


The homes will have a net-zero-embodied-carbon primary structure, use passive design, with renewable energy technologies to generate enough electricity to power the scheme. The residents of Parc Hadau will pay no energy bills because the development will use a mixture of renewable energy technologies to generate enough clean electricity to power its homes over the year. When Parc Hadau needs to draw on electricity from the grid, such as on cold winter nights, Sero will measure the carbon intensity of the imported electricity and later export enough clean energy in return to balance the overall carbon emissions.


Sero Homes, which was founded in Wales two years ago, said Parc Hadau provides high-quality, affordable housing through long-term index-linked leases. It will also be the first scheme to meet the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) definition of net zero carbon by tracking the development’s energy use and carbon emissions in real time.


James Williams, the managing director of Sero Homes, said: “The principles underpinning our vision for housing are simple – people’s homes should minimise the harm done to our planet and they shouldn’t cost the earth to run.”


Park Hadau is set to begin construction later in 2020, with residents expected to move in during Summer 2021. Once complete, it will comprise 11 two-bed homes, 22 three-bed homes and two four-bed homes, alongside a large communal garden and a community building for both residents and locals


Parc Hadau is an example of a small specialist development. There is no reason such types of project, built by smaller building companies, and designed by specialist eco-architectural and landscaping teams, cannot contribute to large SUEs like Langley; and in so doing they will contribute to Birmingham’s policy of securing the highest standards of sustainable design. 


Plans submitted for zero carbon neighbourhood – Parc Hadau

Eco Projects relevant to Langley SUE: Leeds Climate Innovation District

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Continuing our case studies of exemplary and innovative sustainable housing developments relevant to Langley SUE; this is a short assessment of the Climate Innovation District claimed by developer Citu Group Limited to represent a pioneering new approach to low-carbon house building in this country.


Images One – Four:  visualisations by Ollier Smurthwaite Architects of the proposed Climate Innovation District Hunslett Leeds

The proposals for the Climate Innovation District transform a derelict former industrial site into a new publicly accessible neighbourhood on the edge of the City Centre in Leeds. 204 new houses and apartments are proposed alongside commercial units and office space arranged throughout the site to encourage permeability. The aim is to provide family housing with a strong emphasis on communal living and as such fenced-in private gardens are disposed of in favour of private terraces looking out onto landscaped communal gardens. The District features ultra-energy efficient houses with above standard insulation, heat recovery systems and an air-tight thermal envelope to create a home where (it is claimed) a traditional gas boiler is no longer required, and where heating requirements are (it is claimed) a small fraction of those of a traditionally built house (up to 10 times lower), in fact the homes’ heating requirements can be met with 100% renewable energy.

Image Five: the developer Citu Homes specifies a mechanical ventilation heat recovery (MVHR) system. This brings a constant flow of fresh air into the home, and warms it using the heat from exiting warm stale air. It is claimed over 90% of heat is transferred from exiting stale air to incoming fresh air.

Image Six: the home retains heat so effectively that it is claimed a gas boiler is no longer required – its heating needs are so low they can be met with 100% renewable energy, preventing the emission of over two tonnes of CO2 per year.

Insulated prefabricated panels are manufactured locally 200 meters away, on the site of the second phase. This helps reduces travel miles, and with it the carbon footprint of the home’s construction. By building in a factory the developer claims that waste can be removed from the construction process, and recycled what isn’t used; for example 95% less waste to landfill from Citu Works than a traditional construction site. Most importantly, by building with timber the developer claims significant reductions in embodied carbon.

All the homes in Phase 1 of the Climate Innovation District will be supplied by renewable energy from the site’s solar arrays, installed on Riverside houses and apartments. These panels will be owned jointly by all the residents, via the Community Interest Company (CIC), a not for profit company controlled by the residents. Residents will be billed according to their usage, which is managed via the developer’s  smart home app “Actuate”, with all profits generated retained in the CIC so residents can spend them on projects to benefit the whole development.

Image Seven: view of low-energy housing with new footbridge across the River Aire

Image Eight: Layout Plan and Context of new eco-development.204 new houses and apartments are proposed alongside commercial units and office space arranged throughout the site to encourage easy access and movement.

As well as creating zero-emission homes, the concept design encourages the transition to zero carbon transport. The whole development is raised up several meters to create a car free landscape perfect for pedestrians and cyclists, free from traffic pollution. For those who still need a car, every single space in the development’s undercroft car park will be provided with electrical car charging as standard, allowing an easy transition to electric vehicles. A new pedestrian bridge over the River Aire links the development together and means it’s less than a 5-minute walk to Leeds Dock from phase 1, helping to encourage walking and cycling. The new bridge will also carry the pipes for the new Leeds district heat network, providing low carbon heating for homes & businesses across city.

Image Nine: ground level view showing landscaping and raised podium to protect against flooding

The Climate Innovation District is designed around a central large green space. The public landscape is kept car free by concealing parking beneath a new sculpted landscape providing spaces of varying qualities and functions between buildings. Space for a new public park is created by stacking units into a small tower, also providing a beacon for the development along the riverside.In addition, by retaining current trees at the site and planting more local species, a new River-bank peppered with over 60 trees, helping local wildlife will be created. By creating so many large areas of green space, it is claimed the site retains storm water & disperse it naturally into the ground, helping to prevent flooding.

To further help mitigate flood risk for the whole city, every Citu Home will have its own rain garden, to retain storm-water and slowly diffuse it into the ground, rather than rapidly discharging it into drains & rivers which can exacerbate flooding. The Riverside houses also feature sedum-type green roofs which help retain water & mitigate the urban heat island effect.

This innovative project offers relevant lessons for Langley (and other new housing developments in Sutton Coldfield) in meeting the very highest standards of sustainable design Birmingham has mandated. The Climate Innovation District demonstrates innovative development, green design and prefabrication, and the incorporation of a Community Interest Company (CIC) as a special form of non-charitable limited body to benefit the new occupants rather than make a profit for shareholders. Features like EV Charging Points as standard and billing for renewable energy usage are common-sense features in line with the UK Government’s commitment to zero-Carbon development. Also positive is the way that its eco credentials are positively marketed; this project is aimed at the environmentally responsible. This is an eco-conscious business venture with a potentially win-win outcome.

Whilst the Climate Innovation District is an inner city renewal project similar say to Port Loop in Birmingham, relevant aspects could be easily applied to greenfield or suburban sites such as Langley. There are a wealth of positive green ideas capable of application by other enlightened developers. Overall it is the fresh, innovative, ecological approach to sustainable design that provides a compelling benchmark standard against which large new housing development such as Langley can be judged. 



Citu Group Limited

Ollier Smurthwaite Architects

Housing Exemplars relevant to Langley SUE: Energy Efficiency at Goldsmith Street Norwich

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Goldsmith Street is a new £17m development in Norwich of around 105 homes – a mix of 45 one-bedroom flats, 40 two-bedroom houses, three two-bedroom flats and five four-bedroom flats.

Sections through the new houses showing how solar warming and shading have been carefully considered


The homes are owned and managed by Norwich City Council, and rented out to people with a housing need. They are being built by R.G. Carter and designed by architects Mikhail Richer with Norwich City Council acting as de facto developer. Goldsmith Street represents straightforward social housing, rented from the Council with secure tenancies at fixed rents.

London-based architects Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley first won the competition for the site in 2008. The council’s intention had been to sell the site to a local housing provider, but these plans were forestalled by the financial crisis. In 2012, the city took the brave step of deciding to develop the site itself using a mix of borrowing, funds from its housing revenue account, some right-to-buy receipts and council reserves.

What also makes Goldsmith Street stand out from the crowd is its commitment to energy-efficiency. Goldsmith Street is perhaps the most energy efficient housing ever built in the UK, meeting exacting Passivhaus standards – which results in a 70% reduction in fuel bills for tenants. With Passivhaus the heating requirement has been reduced to a point where a traditional heating system is no longer essential, with the ventilation system recovering heat generated from appliances such as washing machines, televisions and from body heat.

The timber framed buildings have insulation pumped into a airtight membrane, to prevent heat loss, with triple-glazed windows with a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system. The upfront cost of building homes to Passivhaus standard is higher, but the Council says, over a 30-year period, it will not work out as more expensive than standard homes – and is kinder to the environment.

Although not architecturally distinctive in its design, Goldsmith Street offers a radical approach to the provision of low-carbon socially progressive housing. The scheme is dense and low-rise proving more houses than other completion entries, which were mainly flats – thus better values from the site. Future maintenance has been minimised by designing flats whereby every flat has a front door onto the street, with its own staircase and lobby at street level – this designing out all internal common parts.

With regard to urban design strategies the design re-introduces streets and houses in an area of the city which is otherwise dominated by 20th century blocks of flats. The popular Golden and Silver Triangles, areas of highly desirable late 19th century terraced housing, is within 5 minutes’ walk. Existing green links are reinforced with a landscape scheme which extends beyond the boundaries of the site to include local roads and a park. Street widths are intentionally narrow at 14m, emulating the 19th Century model. Parking is on street and a 20mph speed limit is to be applied. A shared ‘alley’ encouraging small children’s play and communal gathering is accessible from back gardens – a secure place which only key holders (residents) can access.


PHOTO CREDITS: Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley

Derwenthorpe Case Study

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Derwenthorpe featured as an exemplary designed housing project in Birmingham’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the Langley SUE. So as to better understand the merits of this scheme this case study has been put together based largely from Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) and other assessments available online.

The LINK to the detailed report shows feedback as generally positive, although there are some reported teething problems related to the District Heating Scheme, Heat Recovery, and an over expectation by occupiers of the sustainability benefits that is not always met, and also some issues between neighbours because of the relatively low car parking provision (1.1 per dwelling). But more positively community cohesion was reported to be very high and occupiers like the landscaped open space adjacent to the tightly packed housing. These lessons are very important for Langley where the relationships of built form to open space are critical factors in successfully establishing a new community.

A visit to this and other exemplary sustainable housing schemes is recommended by Eco Sutton, in order to assess the pros and cons of different sustainability and design approaches, to provide a reliable and informed benchmark of what constitutes the “highest standards” of sustainability and design.


Derwenthorpe is a mixed-tenure housing development situated approximately 2 miles to the east of York City Centre which is adjacent to Osbaldwick, Tang Hall and Meadlands. The design and planning for this new estate was undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) and the building contract for all 4 build phases has been awarded to Barratt Developments (under the brand name “David Wilson Homes”). The credited Phase One Architect is Adam Cornish. The Phase One Contract Value was £8m.

Most new housing developments are free-standing and generate constant car journeys. Derwenthorpe has been created as an edge-of-town extension to allow residents to link to the existing infrastructure. It is situated in the village of Osbaldwick on the outskirts of York. Local amenities in the village include schools, nurseries and doctors’ surgeries. There are dentists, chemists, vets, supermarkets, a health club, a library and a post office. It is served by excellent transport links into York city centre and beyond.

Community Ethos:

Over 100 years ago, Joseph Rowntree built York’s garden village of New Earswick  as a model community. He hoped others might learn lessons in addressing social issues. A century later, the new community of Derwenthorpe was created to emulate this model. It is providing much needed new housing in the city.

The development explores three themes focusing around creating sustainable communities:

  • environmental performance – practical solutions to deliver zero-carbon homes;
  • environmental behaviours – encouraging and supporting more sustainable lifestyles;
  • digital and social media – addressing the barriers to digital inclusion and using it to support community development.

An over-arching priority remains the creation of a vibrant community. This means a high level of involvement by its citizens in decisions that affect them all. Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust is actively involved in initiatives to provide low carbon heat and attractive green and open spaces. Also, a self-governing community residents can be proud of.


Derwenthorpe was one of the first large-scale low carbon communities in northern England. It meets demanding targets for reduced energy and water usage. Its ‘green’ heating and hot water system is at the heart of the development.

All homes built will meet or exceed the Code for Sustainable Homes level 4 standard and include features such as MVHR Heat Recovery Systems in order to reduce energy consumption. Hot water and central heating is provided by means of a district heating biomass furnace system which is housed in the “Super Sustainable Centre” (SSC) in the middle of the site.

The community uses a district heating system. It means that homes don’t have their own boilers. Heating and hot water is efficiently distributed to all homes by the predominantly biomass boilers. These are in the village’s centrally located SSC. Woodchip is used in the biomass boilers. It burns with extremely low pollution effects on the environment (compared to traditional sources like coal and oil). It is sourced locally through both harvesting trees grown specifically for this purpose and recycling forestry thinnings.

The SSC generates hot water. This is distributed to homes through underground pipes. It then passes through a Consumer Interface Unit to generate hot water for radiators, washing and bathing.

The temperature in each home is controlled by residents via a digital programmer and upstairs/downstairs thermostats. There are also thermostatic radiator valves on individual radiators. Heat and hot water usage in each home is measured by a heat meter. This sends automatic readings to a company called Switch1. They use these readings to generate accurate monthly bills.

Tenure and Layout:

Derwenthorpe will eventually offer 489 high-quality environmentally friendly and energy efficient homes. The Lotherington Quarter is located off Temple Avenue and takes its name from Elizabeth Lotherington. She was the grandmother of well-known businessman and philanthropist Joseph Rowntree. It is a mixed-tenure development of 120 properties. They are two, three- and four-bedroom family homes. They are available to rent, part-buy or buy through our shared and full ownership scheme. This approach to quarter design is very appropriate to the larger Langley SUE to create a sense of place and distinctiveness in what is a far larger scheme. Also Derwenthorpe’s approach to mixed tenure offers a more varied package to prospective occupiers with an avoidance of stigmatisation.

The Seebohm Quarter is located off Fifth Avenue. It takes its name from Benjamin Seebohm, he was second of the four sons of Joseph Rowntree. Langley can learn from Derwenthorpe in creating place names and identities based on local Suttonian historical figures.

There are two, three, four and five bedroom flats and houses available to rent, part-buy or buy through the JRHT shared and full ownership scheme. Each home has been designed with eco-friendly features including communal biomass boiler heating and a drainage system that prevents flooding. Some have balconies and en-suite bathrooms.

Community Activities and Initiatives:

Community activities are encouraged in Derwenthorpe. JRHT claim that the SSC offers a central meeting place for residents, local schools and community groups to use, including The Derwenthorpe Partnership Advisory Committee, which provides resident input into the development of the community, and the Derwenthorpe Community Fund.

The Derwenthorpe Community Fund was created to invest in initiatives that benefit the local community. It has a particular focus on tackling the actions highlighted by local people. The types of activities that come under the grant include:

  • Working with schools and other local agencies and community organisations to provide community activities for all ages;
  • Developing opportunities for children and young people to engage in community-based activities;
  • Supporting or establishing events and activities that make best use of open space and recreational facilities in and around Derwenthorpe;
  • Supporting or developing learning opportunities for adults;
  • Supporting or developing social events and activities that promote social cohesion and inclusion.

These provisions are relevant to the Community Development Trust (CDT) as proposed for Langley


The development has won a number of awards for both design and build, including:

  • Civic Trust Award, 2014 for Phase 1
  • Housing Design Award, 2013 (completed category)
  • What House? Awards, 2013. Silver awarded in the “Best Development” category
  • Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire Award for sustainability, 2017 for Phase 1
  • Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA) Yorkshire Award for Best Large Residential Development, 2017 for Phase 2


Photographs (where known): Tim Crocker

Thanks to JRHT / LINK

Detailed Report is available at:  LINK

Co-Housing: A Template for Sustainable Housing at Langley?

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Marmalade Lane Case Study

Looking at the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension which will have a very significant impact on the West Midlands and Sutton Coldfield in particular, it is helpful to benchmark with the best examples of community-led sustainable housing elsewhere in the Country. Only by doing this can we properly comprehend what is actually possible and compare with what is on offer. It’s a case of learning and by learning raising our expectations.

Marmalade Lane is Cambridge’s first co-housing development ­– instigated by Cambridge City Council, co-designed with a residents’ group and built by Mole Architects and developers Trivselhus and TOWN. Its 42 homes occupy just under one hectare at the easternmost edge of Orchard Park, a development of around 900 homes on the city’s northern fringe. Cohousing communities are created and run by their residents. Each household has a self-contained, private home as well as shared community space.

Arriving on Marmalade Lane – the name given not only to the overall development but also to a pedestrianised link running through it ­– the immediate impression is one of intimacy. The pavement and several flank walls at the entrance are covered in children’s scribbles in blue pink and yellow chalk.

Marmalade Lane comprises 42 homes – a mix of two- to five-bedroom terraced houses and one- and two-bed flats. Homes are arranged in terraces which front existing streets and create a new one so that the development looks out as well as in. The terraces enclose a shared garden with an open aspect to the south. Each household selected one of five ‘shell’ house or flat types, and made a floor-by-floor selection of plans, kitchen and bathroom fittings, and one of four external brick specifications. Wide and narrow house and ‘paired’ flat shells share a 7.8m-deep plan, allowing them to be distributed in any sequence along a terrace. “Homes have been tailored to individual requirements without the risks or complexity of self-build, while balancing personalisation with the harmony of a visually cohesive architectural style”, says the architect.

The houses were built using Trivselhus’s Climate Shield closed-panel timber-frame system, giving high levels of airtightness. Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems are installed in all homes. This is a very sustainable project with low emissions and running costs.

Various public sector-funded commissions unlocked the process. A scoping study in 2009, led by Hill’s consultancy C20 and funded by regeneration agency Cambridgeshire Horizons, tested the appetite for the ‘self-build’ approach and, with a range of stakeholders, developed a vision for the site. In 2011 the council-appointed consultancy Cambridge Architectural Research undertook further enabling work, spanning proof of concept and a schematic layout and design principles, working all the while to distil the priorities of an existing co-housing group into what eventually became a 60-page client brief.

The Great Hall, or common house – a popular feature of many co-housing schemes ­– sits at the heart of the neighbourhood. Entered through a generous lobby with seating, plants, and a noticeboard listing upcoming social events and meetings, the hall is a large open-plan space, brought together by a wood burner centrepiece, with an adjoining children’s play room and sizeable communal kitchen. Stone floors, timber-panelled walls, a double-height ceiling and a dual aspect create a warm and light-filled atmosphere reminiscent of a village hall. (Bunting and curtains of folded paper cranes also help).

Upstairs, past framed silk paintings made by the residents, are guest rooms which members can book for a small fee to cover costs, as well as a quiet meeting room, with balcony views across the common green, where a gym and shared workshop sit at the base of the apartment block.

Now, as owners of the common land, with responsibility for covering service charges, members sit on various committees, participate in the mandatory cleaning rota of the common house, opt in or out of its weekly meals, or volunteer to manage the shared workshop. “We’re like a small business”, director Jan Chadwick says, chuckling.

Co-housing is still rare in the UK, but with greater resources emerging from government, upfront enabling support and improved focus on broadening participation, we are hopefully on our way to seeing it as less of an exception, and more a new normal.

Marmalade Lane is a viable project that Birmingham can learn from and apply. The aim for large housing developments like Langley is not to comprehensively develop on a co-housing basis. This is simply not feasible. Rather to selectively develop co-housing and other innovative tenures as pockets of community excellence within the overall masterplan. These innovative approaches offer real potential for more community focused development in the West Midlands.


Thanks to: Olivia Tusinski / Architecture Today

Community Planning Initiatives / Langley Fully Electric Park & Ride

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A key part of the Eco Sutton response to Birmingham City Council’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the Langley Development was the provision of a green Park and Ride Facility. Eco Sutton’s vision is for fully electric shuttles to run from Langley via a new passenger station on the Sutton Park Railway Line in Walmley and then onto the Town Centre.

There would be two major benefits:

1. Avoiding a dislocated Langley and instead ensuring it was connected by green public transport to the Sutton Town Centre.

2. Avoiding the pollution and congestion of additional traffic on the already congested highways and instead providing clean non-polluting electric vehicles.

Community Planning Initiatives: Greening Future Car Use

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As part of the Reclaiming the Highways initiative Eco Sutton is championing the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the Town. Eco Sutton is also working with the Town Council and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) for EV Charging to be integrated into the proposed Transport Interchange. EVs reduce vehicle borne pollution and make the Town a cleaner and healthier place to live.