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Environment-kind buildings with an eye for detail

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

  • The South West Energy Centre in Paignton

  • Beechfields View, Torquay

  • Trinity Court, Long Sutton, Somerset

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In the fifth of a series profiling the shortlisted finalists in the Michelmores/Western Morning News Annual Property Awards, we take a look at the judges' choices in the category of Eco Project of the Year which is sponsored by Midas Construction. Making it to the final are projects from Torquay, Paignton and Long Sutton in South Somerset. The winners will be announced at a Gala Dinner at St Mellion International Resort on May 8.

Beechfields View, Torquay Nominated by Torbay Development Agency

Project value: £20 million

The objective of this ambitious project was to deliver a flagship mixed tenure sustainable eco-development that would help meet Torbay’s strategic housing needs for a range of different client groups. It was also important to reduce fuel poverty by lowering the energy bills of the residents.

Beechfields View comprises 144 much needed homes for different types of occupant and includes 25 apartments for the over 55s with priority to local residents wishing to downsize; 16 general needs rented apartments and 16 houses; 20 intermediate rent apartments with priority to key workers; 15 shared ownership apartments and two houses; 32 open market sale apartments and 10 houses, plus eight wheelchair adapted dwellings that were bespoke for specific clients.

The project was designed along the Code for Sustainable Homes’ guidelines – a national design and construction benchmark – and demonstrating that eco-properties can be aesthetically pleasing and without their renewable energy features being highly visible.

The low-carbon, energy efficient design is geared towards reducing energy bills, using a number of renewable energy components including photovoltaic roof panels, a mechanical ventilated heat recovery system that recycles heat within each home, rainwater harvesting and triple glazing.

Occupants are now benefitting from the quality of materials used which reduce ongoing maintenance, while research is showing that the residents' fuel bills have reduced by 50% when compared to the previous accommodation.

Ten properties of various types and tenures will be monitored over the next two years by researchers from Plymouth University, to assess how well the energy efficiency measures are performing.

The judges considered this to be a well-conceived project with good design, high specification and a ‘practical interpretation of sustainability’. It addresses the housing needs of a number of different groups while engaging with the existing local community having communicated with approximately 1000 households over the course of the project.

South West Energy Centre (SWEC), Paignton, Devon Nominated by: LHC Architecture + Urbanism/Kier Construction/South Devon College

Project Value: £6.5 million

Already a finalist in the awards’ Building of the Year category, the South West Energy Centre is designed to be a one-stop-hub to access impartial information and training for the energy/low-carbon sector and emerging industries.

In addition to providing an outstanding learning environment, SWEC provides up-to-date advice for businesses including energy audits, business consultancy, research and development, access to new markets and funding, and provides guidance for communities and individuals on sustainable construction, renewable energy and selecting local professionals.

As a flagship education and information facility in the renewable sector, it was vital that the building clearly has its own eco-friendly credentials. The building demonstrates outstanding sustainable features in design and construction including bio-mass boiler, building management system, solar thermal wall, sedum roof and photovoltaic arrays achieving BREEAM Excellent. Plant and servicing, along with building fabric, demonstrate best practice methods in low-carbon technology.

The flexible construction hall and advanced technologies zone contains two real houses including the only certified Passivhaus inside a UK college. Other features include a dedicated hybrid/electric vehicle area, flexible classroom and IT spaces and interactive display zone providing training in renewable technologies, sustainable construction, environmental science, conservation and carbon management.

The architects were particularly proud that the building's sustainable credentials: “[They are there for a purpose; to inform the teaching, research and entrepreneurship undertaken daily. The building provides a flexible showcase for sustainable technologies and building methods, but it’s also a vital element of the programme itself.”

SWEC is currently engaged with 165 businesses as part of the ERDF business engagement project. The building had an average of 200 visitors a month in its first three months while 165 students have visited the Passivhaus. As part of a research project four families will be invited to live in the Passivhaus for a week.

Trinity Court, Long Sutton, Somerset Nominated by Brookvale Homes (SW) Limited

Project Value: £299,000

The terrace of three masonry built houses at Trinity Court were designed to fit in with the existing village environment, utilising local materials, whilst ensuring a Passivhaus philosophy of a ‘fabric first approach’ where the building does the work reducing the reliance on renewables that will be expensive to install and maintain.

The client, Yarlington Housing Group, identified Long Sutton as a village with a need for social and shared ownership dwellings and as an opportunity of trialling the tremendous potential of building competitively-costed Passivhaus social housing, something that if successful, could be rolled out across the region.

The project aspired to demonstrate that Passivhaus schemes do not have to be expensive and unaffordable for social housing, providing functional and super-airtight, environmentally friendly and highly efficient homes delivered on budget.

The scheme has been built using a masonry constructed superstructure, including a locally sourced stone façade that fits in seamlessly with the surrounding buildings in this quaint village environment.

The benefits of Passivhaus design include: reduced energy costs – a 70m2 Passivhaus with gas heating could spend as little as £25 on space heating each year; healthier living – good indoor air quality is provided by a whole house mechanical ventilation heat recovery system (MVHR); excellent ventilation – over 80% heat recovery from the MVHR system; super airtightness and insulation.

This development of three dwellings is the first Certified Social Passivhaus Scheme in Somerset and only the second in the South West of England.

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