Being a Norwich resident I was thrilled to read this article in the Guardian about a groundbreaking social housing developing just 20 minutes walk from my house!
Needless to say, it took me over a month to get over there to take a look. But I was impressed. Very impressed. The development is pleasant looking and quiet and, a nice touch, inbetween the rows back gardens there is a communal space with benches, tables and trees, guarded by a security lock.
I took a few photographs (below) and also had a quick word with some of the residents – a couple coming out to their car with their little girl. How had they found it, I asked? Did it save them any money? Were there any other advantages?
I got the impression that they had only recently moved in and both of them seemed to think that so far they had not actually saved money on their energy bills. However, they both agreed that the houses were lovely to live in and the man commented that the soundproofing was fantastic. “Next door there is a noisy teenager – I can hear her in the garden but not a peep when I am indoors!”
They mentioned that there had been quite a few reporters and camera crews about and seemed to think, rather sadly, that people felt the houses were too good ‘for people like them’.
You can find out more on the RIBA website, along with better photographs than mine, who comment
Tireless work by the architects has kept the standard of workmanship up to a very high level. Social tenants get impressively high specification interiors – in both the end-of-terrace flats and the central terrace houses. Passivhaus detailing has nicely accommodated the mechanical ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) units in the interiors, and the services intakes have been intelligently controlled. Each dwelling has a range of providers’ services pre-wired, so that they can be connected on demand, without the need for a service providers’ to come in later and drill through vital vapour barrier lines.
Bringing the reduced energy consumption associated with Passivhaus to mass housing is a great achievement, and one that has taken a large amount of effort and care by the architects. This is an exemplary project.
The development is up for the Sterling Prize and I really hope it wins – what could be better when we are threatened by catastrophic climate change, than a proper social housing development built to the exacting Passivhaus standards?
What about Norwich Council? Are they going to do more of this?
Gail Harris, the Labour council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for social housing, says “yes”. The city now has its own wholly-owned housebuilding outfit, Norwich Regeneration Company, with several other sites planned. The council is hoping to establish an additional fund to acquire sites, and has already revealed another small housing development at Bullard Road. However other potential developments appear problematic.
The main problem is central government rules.
“There is a lot of rhetoric about needing more homes, but they should do more to help us,” says Harris. “They’ve lifted the borrowing cap, but we’re still losing a huge number of homes through right to buy.”
Below are some of the pictures I took on my visit to Goldsmith Street – starting with the very different council estate on the other side of the road: