Eco Housing Development, Wortham

The site of the development was a redundant farm on the edge of the village of Wortham in North Suffolk. The site lies within the settlement boundary and was acquired with outline planning permission for 10 houses.

The site was overgrown and inaccessible on purchase and included the remains of a fire damaged farmhouse and a dilapidated cottage which was not listed but was shown to be retained on the outline approval. There was also a number of derelict farm buildings and outbuildings, which had to be demolished and removed from site.

The outline planning approval had numerous conditions attached to it, one of which was for a scheme of archaeological instigation to be undertaken which involved extensive excavation and monitoring throughout the site, evidence of previous occupation during Roman times was discovered but nothing of any great significance recorded. A full ecological survey was also undertaken on the site and the system of mitigation incorporated both during the construction phase and on completion of the scheme to protect and enhance the ecological value of the site.

The historical analysis of the existing cottage on the site (known as the Ale House) showed that although it was not listed it was of some heritage value and part of the village history, a decision was taken to renovate and extend the property rather than demolish and rebuild, a policy which was strongly supported by both the local parish council and the Suffolk Preservation Society.

At the detail design stage local participation was invited through a series of meetings with the local parish council and planning authority, the scheme was developed to follow the local Suffolk vernacular to ensure that is the houses fitted in within the village and complied with the village’s own development plan. The village of Wortham had developed their own local design plan and this was also followed throughout the design process. Externally a mix of materials were used to give each house its own identity, these included flint, masonry, render and timber boarding. The houses were constructed using a timber frame, which were constructed off site, with a brick or block skin externally.

The developer’s brief dictated that the houses should be built to a minimum of the Code for Sustainable Homes level 4 and should incorporate energy-saving measures wherever feasible and practical to do so. The houses are all designed with insulation levels in excess of the statutory requirement and a high level of draught proofing which was verified by pressure testing on completion. All the properties were heated by high-efficiency air source heat pumps, supplemented by solar thermal and photovoltaic panels on most of the properties. To further reduce energy requirements properties were fitted with heat recovery ventilation systems. The inclusion of these technologies ensured that the houses have very low overall running costs complete with a high thermal efficiency, monitored with energy usage meters.

Further design details that were included to enable the development to achieve Code level 4 were water saving sanitaryware and fittings, security measures to comply with the Police “Secured by Design” standards, secure cycle storage and facilities for recycling.

The careful design of this development has ensured that when viewed within the village as a whole it has settled into the environment and village scene without causing an unwanted intrusion and remains in keeping with the local design vernacular. Both the purchasers and local residents are pleased with the properties, in terms of the impact it has had upon the village and the practicalities and enjoyment of living within the properties. Whilst not all the properties have been sold to date, there has remained interest in them and they have been widely admired in terms of their design, finish and quality.

Building Control, Warranty and Code assessment services were provided by Premier Guarantee across the whole site, this development won an award for their “Environmental Development of the Year” in 2012. The site was also used to host a Suffolk Green Buildings Network Event, demonstrating the integration of modern technologies in traditional modern design and has been seen as a flagship development for sustainable and environmental technologies coupled with traditional design.