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Newhaven: Proposal for five low carbon homes in a

Transition context
a briefing document for Lorraine Jones by Robin Hillier of Forever Green Projects Ltd 24 July 2008 (REV 28 July)

1. What's going on in the UK and abroad (with thanks to the Good


Homes Alliance and green Building Magazine for words and figures)

In environmental terms, housing accounts for over 25% of UK CO2 emissions through
energy use, with all buildings contributing to around 50% in total.
In human health terms, we spend more time in our homes than ever before and as a
society suffer from many building related diseases and problems; the social impact of new
housing on both new and old communities can be considerable. The 2006 English House
Condition Survey (published on the Communities and Local Government website) reports
that less than 10% of our housing stock achieves an energy efficiency rating of C or better.
Typical Passivhaus detailed housing in Germany and Denmark, reaching A ratings, is rapidly
becoming the norm in temperate European countries and it is predicted that ALL German
building will be built to Passivhaus standards within 10 years.

The economic impacts of good housing are considerable to Government, communities and
individuals in terms of future quality of life and our future prosperity.

Example 1:
"Swan Country Homes successfully entered a national competition to design and build a
sustainable development for which carbon neutrality is the strategic aim for Restormel
Borough Council as part of the Urban Village Phase 2 in St Austell, Cornwall. The scheme
which will encourage inclusive community living will provide affordable homes that have low
environmental impact by minimising harmful carbon emissions. The development will
comprise 19 units.

The homes will be built with modern methods of construction and carefully selected
materials such as fired and unfired clay blocks, reclaimed Cornish slate and timber from
local sustainable woodland.

A healthy internal environment is one of this development's core priorities.


The design will ensure a “breathable” construction which allows a controlled internal relative
humidity through the use of hygroscopic materials.

This development will focus on corporate learning with the local council, residents and also
the community. User awareness plays a critical role in the environmental impact of buildings
in use by motivating the occupiers to voluntarily embrace the sustainability agenda. Swan
Country Homes will provide a clear and easy to use Home User Guide and will use
monitoring to inform residents of their energy and water use."

Example 2:
"Great Bow Yard is a unique mixed-use development of 12 eco-homes finished in 2006,
alongside offices and workshops. All the properties at Great Bow Yard were built to
EcoHomes Excellent (approx. SCH Level 3) standards and have been built using sustainably
sourced materials and avoiding potentially toxic chemicals.
Ecos are now building five pioneering eco-homes in Stawell to Code for Sustainable Homes
Level 5, and which aim to will be some of the best low carbon homes in the country.
At Stawell, Ecos Homes have gone even further, based on lessons learnt at Great Bow Yard.
Three terraced three-bed homes and two four-bed detached will all include a wood-pellet
boiler, PV and solar thermal panels, internal sunspaces and maximum natural light. As well
as reducing the environmental impact of the homes, a healthy internal environment is
emphasised, along with low heating and electricity bills supporting a better quality of life for
residents. Ecos are hoping to complete this development by the end of 2008."

Example 3:
" The first Code level 5 social housing development in the UK, the Mid Street development in
South Nutfield, Surrey, has been completed. Built by Osborne, on behalf of the Raven
Housing Trust, it achieves a 100% reduction of carbon emissions over Building Regulations
standards.

The environmental performance and energy usage of the properties will be monitored by the
Energy Saving Trust over the next two years. To achieve Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable
Homes, the properties have been erected using structural insulated panels (SIPS), which
contribute to a reduction in energy consumption in terms of U value, air tightness and
increased thermal performance. Air leakage sealing is used to ensure heat is retained and
the properties will run on renewable energy sourced from photovoltaic panels. Triple glazed
windows and low energy lighting has also been fitted and all the sanitary ware is water
saving. The homes also include biomass (wood pellet) boilers, rain water harvesting and
heat recovery ventilation systems."

2. Local history of social housing built as an alternative model

The Brighton area has long had a


reputation for innovative social housing
models, starting with mass self build
projects set up for service men returning
after the second world war. In the 1990s
three different social housing schemes
incorporating community self build, easy-
to-build 'low skill' construction methods,
and low impact materials and energy
specification were initiated and
constructed. These were The Diggers
project for 9 houses in Hollingbury, Sea
Saw project for 24 houses near to Brighton
racecourse, and Hedgehog for 10 houses
in Bevendean.

The Diggers project achieved NHER energy ratings of 9.8 out of 10, with space heating bills
of around £50 / annum. Communal gardens complement the co-operative structure of the
community. Grass roofs top the development to reduce the visual impact of the houses on
the tower blocks behind.

Hedgehog (pictured) was featured in the first series of Grand Designs, and illustrates how a
co-operative approach to creating a built community can be made to work - the self builders
set up their own council registered nursery in order to look after the kids whilst the adults
got on with building. The low energy houses (450mm of insulation in the roofs) have now
been home to a generation of children growing up, whilst their parents enjoy secure housing
with low running costs, and views across the downs to Brighton.

3. The Transition context - what is it? (from www.transitiontowns.org)

" A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate
Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:
"for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and
thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil)
and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?"

The resulting coordinated range of projects across all these areas of life leads to a
collectively designed energy descent pathway.
The community also recognises two crucial points:
• that we used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way
up the energy upslope, and that there's no reason for us not to do the same on the
downslope
• if we collectively plan and act early enough there's every likelihood that we can
create a way of living that's significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in
touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on
today."

4. Opportunities for development - a proposal for good practice


in the Transition context

Our client has asked for a development brief for land which they own in Newhaven, suitable
for about five houses, and has approached the Planning Department to find out wheter they
would support any such development. The planners have indicated that the land could be
developed for social housing as an 'exceptions' site. It is proposed to use the Newhaven
land to develop a model for Transition development - addressing local scale energy and
sustainability issues, and providing a small community for like minded people who want to
maximise food growing on site, by:

1. building 5 units of 'social' housing to meet at least Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable
Housing (eg. 75 to 100% improvement over Building Regulations in terms of CO2
emissions.)
2. early selection and involvement of tenants and partners in key feature selection and
design and layout, to maximise cohesiveness - the project could be aimed at assisting
young people, at families, at older, retired people, or a creative mixture of all age groups.
3. very low embodied energy design / low toxicity specification (eg. no chemical timber
treatment, upvc etc)
4. incorporation of work at home facilities within the project
5. provision of one or two parking spaces only for a 'community car' or van with generous
disabled access provision, to be powered by an on site bio-digester, or electricity.
6. appropriate renewables provision in association with, and managed by, local energy
company
7. on-site food growing space for tenants eg. kitchen garden / allotments / shared crops
8. re-use of rainwater for irrigation of above, plus wc cisterns
9. maintenance of indigenous planting and planting of soft fruits to site boundaries to
provide a local habitat for wildlife.
10. incorporation of self build construction techniques where appropriate to benefit the
project as a whole
11. full Lifetime Homes compliance with flexibility of layout to ensure that these are homes
that will adapt to the changing needs of their occupants.

The overall aim would be to assist people who would benefit from social housing but who
want to live a lifestyle appropriate to a future where energy resources are both scarce and
expensive. The project would be innovative in terms of overall aims, brief, and early end
user consultation and involvement, but would aim to use established and proven technology
in order to create these aims, which are about recognising and implementing an early
response to upcoming energy and climate issues.

The development model could be funded for rent, could be cross subsidised by using a
shared ownership model, or, if a suitable project could be initiated, could perhaps best be
implemented by utilising a Community Land Trust (CLT) in conjunction with a Mutual Home
Ownership (MHO) model, where the site is owned by the community through a housing
association, or other community based body, and the houses are built and owned by the
eventual occupants - this means that both the community and occupiers have a key stake in
ensuring the viability of the project, both during construction and beyond. Individual
mortgages are kept very small as only the cost of the house construction is paid for by the
occupants - the land value is kept by the community. Whichever ownership model is
adopted it is hoped to incorporate the key elements identified above.

5. Support & potential partners

This proposal has been discussed with the following groups and organisations, all of whom
have given in-principle support, and who could be invited to take part in the development of
the brief, key design features, and funding opportunities.

Lorraine Jones - owner of land and project initiator


Lewes Planning Dept - have agreed that the site may be used for 'social housing' or similar
as an 'exceptions' site
Lewes District Council and Newhaven Town Council - both officers and councillors have
given broad support, and have indicated that this is the sort of development that the council
would wish to encourage.
CHISEL Ltd - co-operatively owned housing association (who could work with a larger local
HA to manage community involvement)
Transition Town Lewes Co-Housing Groups - offering community support, enabling group
formation and training
OVESCo - local energy management co. (can offer access to grants up to 100% for
renewables - to community ventures)
Tizel Bahcheli - planning consultant
Forever Green - eco architects with experience in low energy community building projects