Low carbon development programmes in the UK need to be ambitious to have the impact that our planet needs. One of the most ambitious programmes we’ve worked on so far is the Climate Innovation District in Leeds, the largest sustainable project in the UK.
When complete, the Climate Innovation District will bring more than 500 new low carbon homes, manufactured to Passivhaus principles, to the market. They will sit alongside a number of manufacturing, leisure and office units located on two brownfield sites either side of the River Aire, close to the centre of Leeds. Each home is constructed on-site from insulated timber panels, which store more CO2 in their timber components than is emitted to build the home whereas a typical equivalent masonry home would result in the emission of 88 tonnes.
The new homes have been designed to tackle climate change by being so energy efficient that a gas central heating system is no longer required. They are kept warm purely by the heat generated by the people and appliances within them on all but the coldest of days. Instead of a gas boiler and pipes, small electric radiators will provide the small amount of heating needed.
The design achieves extremely high standards of insulation, far better than those of the average house in the UK or even a typical new build, as well as being over ten times more air-tight than UK building regulations. This keeps the heat in the house, whilst the Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery System maintains a flow of fresh air, preventing damp.
Civic Engineers has been involved with the Climate Innovation District since the start of the project, working closely with property developer, Citu, on the concept, as well as ensuring that the infrastructure and surrounding environment has been designed to add value through enhanced biodiversity.
A key aspect that we have worked on is the SuDS (sustainable drainage systems) which is hugely important for a site that is located on the banks of the River Aire in a City that has experienced severe flooding as recently as 2015. An exemplary nature based SuDS scheme has been delivered that manages the surface water at source through a combination of tree planting, permeable paving, rain gardens and ponds. The SuDS features contribute to amenity, biodiversity and ecology as well as negating the use of traditional flood management systems like oversized pipes and tanks to attenuate the surface water.
It has only been possible to create this functional, natural landscape by making much of the neighbourhood car-free. Limited access for cars will ensure the Climate Innovation District becomes a leading example of a truly holistic approach to the low carbon development agenda.
One of the CID key aims is to provide a 15-minute neighbourhood lifestyle with all basic day-to-day needs accessible within a short walk and residents encouraged to walk or cycle where possible. In the current live phase of the project, Citu are building just 0.7 car parking spaces per property, all enabled for electric vehicles – but the parking will be provided underground and costs buyers an extra premium. In future phases the number of parking spaces per unit will reduce further, to encourage the transition to walk-able cities with low car use.
The Leeds Climate Innovation District combines all of the principles that are required in the next generation of low carbon development, with clear low carbon benefits combined with a design and ethos focused on creating the conditions and environment for people to flourish.