Opinion

Grand designs

Quality street: Sinclair Meadows, Tyneside, has become the first carbon negative social housing development in the UK by incorporating a commercial-sized PV array
Quality street: Sinclair Meadows, Tyneside, has become the first carbon negative social housing development in the UK by incorporating a commercial-sized PV array

Sinclair Meadows, Tyneside, has become the UK’s first carbon negative social housing development by combining a communal biomass boiler and a 85kW PV array with modern design principles

The vision
Sinclair Meadows, located in South Tyneside, North East England is a social housing development comprising 21 homes including three-bedroom houses and two-bedroom apartments. When the development was unveiled in September last year, it became the first carbon negative social housing street in the UK, producing more energy than it uses.

These pioneering homes were developed by Four Housing Group in partnership with South Tyneside Council, environmental charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, Galliford Try Partnerships North and Fitz Architects, with funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

One of the key aims of the scheme was to provide the local community with affordable housing that would generate energy savings and help to improve fuel poverty.  Each dwelling is 75 per cent more sealed from drafts than a standard house, meaning heating should only be required for around eight weeks per year.

Achieving carbon negativity
Sinclair Meadows surpasses the government’s 2013 definition of carbon zero by 60 per cent and exceeds Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, which is a national standard  for the sustainable design and construction of new homes. The development has the ability to wipe out the carbon footprint created during its construction within 2.8 years and the houses generate more electricity than they use from the largest array of solar panels on a domestic dwelling in the UK. A total of 38.22 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year will be offset by the photovoltaic technology alone.

The high output 300kWp PV panels installed on the roofs and facades generate a total of 85kW of power and the annual designed power output of the installation exceeds 72,250 kWh a year. Approximately 50 per cent is used by the dwellings, while the remaining energy is exported to the national grid. One of the key design principles is that all habitable rooms are south facing and houses are huddled together, reducing the number of north facing elevations to maximise natural light and solar gain.

A number of energy saving design initiatives have been incorporated to foster a more sustainable community, including rainwater harvesting, which stores rainwater in underground storage tanks for use in the toilets and for gardening. Each dwelling uses approximately 70 per cent less mains water due to this system.

In addition, the heating and hot water is provided by a communal large-scale biomass boiler using recycled timber fuel pellets. Heat recovery systems are also installed above the kitchen and bathrooms in order to minimise heat loss, repurposing what has already been released into the environment.

The future of social housing
The project sets a standard of what is achievable through sustainable design and construction and a number of research projects are currently in progress to provide valuable data to the industry.

There is a need to understand how micro-renewable technologies perform and the data monitoring that Four Housing Group has commissioned using Technology Strategy Board funding will establish a benchmark which can be used by the industry. The buildings will be remotely monitored to evaluate their technical performance, how residents use the technologies, how improvements can be made and what support is required to enable tenants to reduce energy usage and fuel costs.