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.
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.
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.
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.
CREDITS / THANKS
Citu Group Limited
Ollier Smurthwaite Architects