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Milestone moment at the topping out ceremony for our Orchard Field show home in Cirencester!

An ancient Scandinavian ceremony marked a milestone as we raised a tree branch to the roof during the topping out ceremony for the show home at Orchard Field in Siddington, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, as Stonewood Partnerships management and staff as well as contractors and guests celebrated with a glass of fizz and bacon rolls.

The neighbourhood is being built by Stonewood Partnerships as a joint venture with retired architect Nicholas Arbuthnott, whose vision inspired the scheme.

Each Cotswold stone or red brick home is designed to cut heating bills by up to 70 per cent compared to standard new-built houses.

Stonewood Partnerships managing director Sam Smart said the ceremony was a good way to mark  the milestone for the firm and told guests: “It’s a moment to pause and reflect and to say thank you to everybody for all the hard work that has brought us to this point.

“We are all very proud and privileged to be part of this project, delivering high quality sustainable homes. It has been a real journey in understanding what a sustainable home is and what it can be  – and to be fair we are still on that journey and are always challenging what can be done.”

With the branch raised to the roof by site manager James Dunsire and assistant site manager Chelsey Salt, guests raised a glass to the development and wished the workers luck. The tradition is said to date back to work on the pyramids but became popular in Scandinavia, when builders cleared a space in the forest to build a home and then placed a fir tree on top of the building as an offering to the forest gods to appease them for disturbing their habitat.

The custom also involved providing drinks or ‘tile beer’ for workers. The practice was brought to Britain after the Vikings invaded.

The woodland-bordered site is 35 acres in total but just 11 acres will be developed. Hundreds of trees will be planted across the community, beginning with an orchard to the west of the development, and dozens more lining the parkland road into Orchard Field.

Two new ponds have already been built on a two-acre nature reserve away from the homes to provide a haven for Great Crested Newts, birds and other wildlife.

Mr Smart told guests: “We have 88 high performing sustainable homes in a beautiful setting, backed up with Nicholas’ idea of building a sense of community and sustainability in terms of growing their own produce, it really is a unique situation.

“The houses will have air source heat pumps, high-performing solar panels, underfloor heating and triple glazing. All the materials have been selected for their performance and their low carbon credentials and we have used local supply chains and materials where we can.

“We are just so thankful that Nicholas and his family recognises our commitment and passion to sustainable development and have joined us on this project. It has been an absolute pleasure working with him. His passion and knowledge of all the disciplines to do with sustainability is amazing, infectious and really enjoyable.”

Mr Arbuthnott was among guests taken on a tour of the site to see the progress of the homes, which are being built using laser-cut timber panels which are 23.5cm thick – nearly double that of standard timber frames. Once they are clad the walls will be a heat-saving 45cm thick to fit the ‘fabric first’ ethos of building homes whose fundamental design is energy efficient, rather than relying on retro-fitting gadgets to produce that efficiency.

“It is really exciting to see all of this taking shape,” said Mr Arbuthnott. “I really like the roof-lines, they are very attractive. It is going to be a beautiful place to live.”

The new homes have been designed by award-winning architects Stonewood Design, with input from leading environmental engineer Greengauge Building Energy Consultants. They will meet stringent Association for Environment Conscious Building standards that demand excellent construction and low energy consumption.

Mr Smart said meeting the AECB’s high standards has demanded high levels of innovation and co-operation between designers, suppliers, builders and contractors. “It’s estimated that the AECB standards will reduce CO2 emissions by 70 per cent and our modelling is showing that it is currently 80 per cent,” he said.

“With all the additional planting and enhanced bio-diversity planned here it all paints a pretty good picture of what we are delivering.”

Orchard Field
Orchard Field
Sam Smart
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