Category Archives: Insulation

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