Airtight frames craned into place as Stonewood Partnerships’ 88 sustainable homes at Orchard Field take shape
Work on a development of 88 sustainable homes has stepped up, as the revolutionary airtight wooden frames, designed to make them as energy efficient as possible, are craned into place.
The homes, at Orchard Field in Siddington, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire, have been designed to be as low energy as possible without compromising the high standards of finish and craftmanship that housebuilder Stonewood Partnerships has produced in its other award-winning developments.
The Tormarton and Castle-Combe-based company is developing the environmentally friendly community as a joint venture with retired architect Nicholas Arbuthnott, whose vision inspired the scheme.
Stonewood’s design team has been working closely with Stewart Milne Timber Systems of Witney in Oxfordshire using MMC (modern method of construction) to develop the frames, 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.
Each home is made up of individual sealed timber panels filled with recycled glass fibre insulation. They are sealed together to make them completely draught-free and allow the energy-efficient heating system to cut bills by up to 70 per cent compared to standard new-built houses.
“It is really exciting and such a proud moment to be able to produce this amazing opportunity with our joint venture partner Nicholas Arbuthnott,” said Stonewood Partnerships managing director Sam Smart. “We are really privileged to be able to do this so early in our company’s evolution.”
The panels are cut to size and sealed using laser-guided equipment at Stewart Milne’s factory to ensure they fit seamlessly together. “We went to the factory to see them being produced and it is very impressive,” said Mr Smart.
“They have done a few of these timber frames for customers but I think this is one of their bigger contracts. The laser precision makes it a superior product because it is so airtight. It means that what is designed on paper is delivered exactly with no imperfections. All the moisture of the wood is carefully controlled and protected at the factory so that the quality we receive on site is second to none.”
The frames are sealed together to form the floors, walls and roof, which not only makes the house better insulated but quicker to produce. “They effectively leave a dry shell for us to put the masonry around the outside and then fit out the inside,” said Mr Smart. “It takes a week to erect a pair of houses when normally it would take four to six weeks. It allows us to start working inside straight away, which makes it a much quicker and cleaner process.”
Each of the 11 contemporary Cotswold styles of one, two, three, four and five bedroomed homes in the community, close to Siddington C of E School, has been designed to meet stringent Association for Environment Conscious Building standards, which demand excellent construction and low energy consumption.
Ground-floor underfloor heating fuelled by an air source heat pump and the use of mechanical ventilation heat recovery, which removes warm air from the kitchen and bathroom and uses it to heat air flowing into the living room and bedrooms, will keep the homes warm in winter and cool in summer.
Small-bore pipes will deliver rapid hot water to sinks and showers to reduce heat loss and water waste.
Up to 12 solar panels integrated into each traditional slate-tiled roof will be able to work with smart technology in fridges, freezers and hot water cylinders to maximise the energy generated throughout the day. Every home with a driveway will have an electric car charging point and other charging points will be available in communal parking areas.
Mr Smart expects the work assembling the timber frames on site to last until next August. “Essentially they’ll be following us around the site as we lay the foundations,” he said.
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 said: “We are delighted this is under way now and we can see the neighbourhood beginning to take shape. We’ll be working very closely with our neighbours and the community as we progress to ensure there is as little disruption in Siddington as possible.”