Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Halton eco-housing development wins top building award

Pedestrian street at Forgebank
A group of Lancashire residents are celebrating after their homes won a prestigious national building award last week.

Lancaster Cohousing’s Forgebank development at Halton beat off competition from shortlisted schemes in Norfolk and Sunderland to receive the UK 2013 Passivhaus Award for a social housing project.  The 41 homes, on the old Luneside Engineering site by the River Lune, were designed by Eco Arc architects from Kendal, with the prospective residents heavily involved in the design process.

The project is part financed by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, with Defra the grant managing authority.

The Passivhaus standard, which makes use of effective insulation, airtight buildings and solar gain, ensures that the homes are very comfortable to live in and use little energy.  But energy consumption and the quality of the indoor environment were just two of the six criteria considered by the judges: aesthetics, design philosophy / innovation, occupant feed back and other sustainability features were also taken into account.

Jon Sear, who managed the project for Lancaster Cohousing and now lives at Forgebank, travelled to the London Residence of the Austrian Ambassador to receive the award.  He said:

The whole point of a certified Passivhaus is that you can be confident that it will be comfortable and energy efficient, and our houses are certainly that.  But I think that what made our project stand out for the judges was the way we have looked beyond the buildings.  Homes are big users of energy, but the majority of energy use for most people comes from other sources such as travel and food.  We’ve been able to address these things too through our community based approach.”

The community has a car club on site, so fewer residents own private cars,  and food at the regular communal meals is vegetarian and vegan, which reduces the energy used in food production.

Having planned the development to minimise energy use, Lancaster Cohousing are working to make it carbon neutral.  Hot water and the single radiator in each house are heated by burning wood chip off-cuts from a local saw mill after the water has been warmed by solar thermal panels.  There are 50kW of solar PV panels with plans for more, and the development is ready to connect into the planned hydro electric turbine at the nearby Forge Weir on the River Lune.

For more information about Lancaster Cohousing or to find out about living there, go to www.lancastercohousing.org.uk or visit them on facebook

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