Thoughtful low-energy residential development near Cirencester could be exemplar for future

Gloucestershire builder Stonewood Partnerships benefits from government's £300 million Housing Growth Partnership

Work has begun on a new community of 88 sustainable homes on the edge of a Gloucestershire village.

The homes, being built by Stonewood Partnerships at Orchard Field in Siddington, near Cirencester have been designed to be as low energy as possible.

The Tormarton and Castle-Combe-based company is developing the environmentally friendly community as joint venture with retired architect Nicholas Arbuthnott, whose vision inspired the scheme.

The new homes have been designed by award-winning architects Stonewood Design, with input from Bradford on Avon based environmental engineer Greengauge Building Energy Consultants.

Each Cotswold stone or red brick home will have solar panels embedded into the roof, 45cm thick walls filled with eco-friendly insulation, triple glazing and airtight interiors to eliminate draughts and allow the energy-efficient heating system to cut bills by up to 70 per cent compared to standard -new-built houses.

Each house has been  designed to meet stringent Association for Environment Conscious Building standards that demand excellent construction and low energy consumption.

Mr Arbuthnott, who secured an option on the site close to Siddington C of E School and was given outline permission on appeal in June 2017, said the key to making the homes as low energy as possible is in their design.

“We call it a fabric-first approach – which means if you get the building right in the first place you make it energy efficient. The timber-frames will be pre-assembled and insulated and pieced together on-site so there will be far more quality control and they will be quicker to build,” he said. “Using timber will mean far less concrete which also reduces the embodied carbon.”

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.

Matt Vaudin, director of Stonewood Design said thought has gone into making the community as sustainable as the homes.

“The scheme is ambitious and exciting,” he said.

Nicholas Arbuthnott 1[2]Mr Arbuthnott said his vision is of a community that lives seamlessly together – with the majority of homes facing each other to increase the sense of togetherness and a focus on communal spaces.

He said: “We feel it is important after these Covid times to bring people together and to know each other. That is why we have included lots of public open spaces in four courtyards planted with fruit trees.

The woodland-bordered site is 35 acres in total but just 11 acres will be developed. Hundreds of trees will be planted across the site 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.

A new dropping off point will be created for parents bringing children to school. The new community is expected to provide at least 30 new pupils for the 110-pupil school.

Mr Arbuthnott said: “I chose to work with Stonewood because they really loved the site and were looking at a contemporary, environmentally based approach with a landscape-led design which is exactly what I wanted. It has been a pleasure working with them.”

Stonewood Partnerships Operations Director Gavin Calthrop said: “This is a very different and exciting project for us and will combine some of the experience we have gained at our other developments with the expertise of Stonewood Design our joint venture partner Nicholas..

“These houses will look and feel spacious, light and modern as well as having the very lowest carbon footprint we can achieve. The scheme signals our ambition to respond to emerging government legislation and increasing customer demand when it comes to building high quality, sustainable new homes. We are looking forward to watching Orchard Field taking shape and to seeing families make it their home.”