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North Wingfield Road social housing complex.

Created on 17-05-2022 | Updated on 25-11-2022

The North Wingfield Road social housing complex consists of 11 similar affordable family houses developed on a rural exemption site within the Derbyshire Green Belt at the eastern edge of the village of Grassmoor, Derbyshire, England. The design of the project drew inspiration from the surrounding rural environment, especially farmsteads and crew yards – clusters of buildings around large farm buildings – which are an essential feature of the local identity. Homes, amenities and landscaping are organised around the central common space to create a friendly environment that provides a sense of containment, safety and immersion in the surrounding natural landscape.

Through its energy efficiency rating (energy performance certification rating B, with a potential to be A), responsible use of material and reduced impact on the surrounding natural environment, a maximum score of 12 green points was given to the development in its Building for Life 12 assessment. In 2021, it received the Housing Design Awards (a UK-based competition) in recognition of good practice in social housing development.


Grassmoor, Derbyshire, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom (53°12'13.40"N, 1°23'59.64"W).

Project (year)

Construction (year)
February, 2020

Housing type
multifamily housing (Semi-detached house)

Urban context

Construction system
Timber frame

Selected option
New building


a) Design philosophy

According to the Housing Design Awards, the design of the North Wingfield project took a contemporary design approach, combining the features of local vernacular architecture - as adopted from local farms - with the developer's vision and requirements for flexible, sustainable and innovative housing (HDA, 2021). The architectural office DK -Architects explains that this fusion is represented by massing the morphology of the project, traditional architectural elements (e.g. Dreadnought brick (roof), Janinhoff brick (walls)) with modern elements such as large glazing and aluminium cladding. This combination of materials not only provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance, but also helps to capture heat, ultimately reducing heating energy consumption for at least seven months of the year (DK-A, 2021). In addition, several innovative features have been adapted, including the well-planned use of space and the clear conceptual plans that extends beyond the interior spaces to the shared courtyard, which serves as a social gathering place for the tenants.

The inspiration for the courtyard was derived from the local identity, the farmstead and the crew yard (HDA, 2021). At the same time, the use of a see-through fence, which extends the sightline into the rural surroundings, provides a calming splash of green colour in each residential unit. The semi-raised upper massing extends the courtyard and provides a semi-enclosed space that enhances the feeling of safety and security (DK-A, 2021). Meanwhile, the buildings in the front row clearly stand out from the surrounding buildings through the use of colours and materials and also serve as an entrance gate to the project (DK-A, 2021; HDA, 2021). Each dwelling has its own mini agricultural space, which has proven valuable for the well-being of the residents.

b) Construction process

The skeleton of the building utilises an off-site timber frame method of construction, adopting a semi-modular design principle (Davies & Jokiniemi, 2008). This construction method provides a structure with a superior thermal envelope that requires minimal maintenance and is a 'fit-and-forget' solution for the lifetime of the building. In addition, both labour and material costs were significantly reduced due to less reliance on craftsmanship and multiple suppliers. This is in line with the UK government plans to revamp construction regulations to encourage bold, creative and sustainable construction methods (Davies & Jokiniemi, 2008; Sterjova, 2017).

The construction process started with ground treatment, followed by the casting of the foundations on site. Meanwhile, the timber frames were manufactured off-site at the supplier's factory, which helped to reduce construction work and thus carbon emissions. The frames were then transported to the site for fixing and external treatment, and all the construction work ran in parallel (Wheatley, 2020). The overall process can be seen in Figure 1.

c) Sustainability integration

At the sustainability level, the project worked on several areas to maximise the adaptation of sustainability features and minimise the impact on the natural environment (HDA, 2021).

Creating sustainable buildings

  • Through sustainable design and layout (e.g. orientation, maximising daylight, optimising solar gain).
  • Creating high quality outdoor environments (e.g. public and private open spaces that provide shade and shelter and consider flood retention and multi-functional green spaces to protect wildlife).
  • Use of sustainable water management techniques (e.g. use of sustainable drainage systems and consideration of surface water run-off).
  • Use of sustainable waste management facilities for private and communal use (through the appropriate provision of waste and recycling bins).
  • Focus on reducing the use of non-renewable energy.

Reduction of carbon emissions

  • The project has been designed in accordance with the highest level of building regulations and sustainability standards, in line with the Government's 10-year timetable for all new homes to be carbon neutral by 2016.
  • Water recycling techniques (such as grey water and rainwater harvesting).
  • Sustainable Transport (reducing reliance on the private car, incorporating practical and accessible sustainable transport patterns).

d) Energy performance

One of the tools to assess building energy efficiency in the  UK is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which is defined by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as:

A rating scheme that summarises the energy efficiency of buildings; it includes a certificate that gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years (DLUHC, 2014).

The EPC is produced using the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP), which is defined by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy as follows:

The method used to assess and compare the energy and environmental performance of properties in the UK [...] it uses detailed information about the property's construction to calculate energy performance (DBEIS, 2013).

The North Wingfield project has successfully achieved a (B) rating - equivalent to 84 out of a maximum possible 100 points with a high potential for an (A) rating equivalent to 95 points (DLUHC, 2021). This score is the result of

  • The use of high-performance materials with very good thermal transmittance properties (walls: 0.20 W/m²K, roof: 0.11 W/m²K, floor: 0.09 W/m²K).
  • Well-designed ventilation system that achieves a good air tightness indicator (air permeability 4.9 m³/h.m²).
  • Low consumption of primary energy of 94 kWh/m2.

Another indicator is the Environmental Impact Score (EIS), which shows the impact of a building on the environment through the estimated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions calculated at the time of the EPC assessment (DLUHC, 2014). The higher the score, the lower the building's impact on the environment: like EPC labels, the environmental impact score is graded from A to G (DBEIS, 2014). The project generates 1.4 tonnes of CO2 annually. This is less than a quarter of the 6 tonnes emitted by an average household. By improving the EIS rating to A, CO2 production will be reduced to 0.3 tonnes, which will distinguish the project as one of the most environmentally friendly projects (DLUHC, 2021). Figure 2 shows the EPC and EIS breakdowns of the properties.

Alignment with project research areas

RE-DWELL research framework is based on the interrelationship of three areas: Design, Planning and Construction, Community Participation and Policy. This case relates primarily to design, planning and building and is most evident through:

  • Green Building: The analysis of this case has provided insights into the design of green buildings and their development processes, while helping the researcher to understand the principles of industrialised construction. In addition, this case is a 100 per cent social housing development that requires compliance not only with building regulations but also with higher sustainability standards such as the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and Home Quality Mark (HQM).
  • Sustainable design: This case helps to understand UK sustainability policy through the applicable codes, standards and guidelines produced by planning and sustainability agencies such as the Building Research Establishment (BRE).
  • Inclusive design: The results of this project are considered an example of inclusive design as tenants play an important role in maintaining the sustainability of the community and the environment.

All of the aforementioned made this project a good example for an in-depth study and helped to capture the practice of social housing design and construction in the UK.

Design, planning and building

Community participation

Policy and financing

* This diagram is for illustrative purposes only based on the author’s interpretation of the above case study

Alignment with SDGs

Although this is a small-scale project, a close examination of the relationship with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows that the project is well aligned with several of the goals:

  • Good health and well-being (particularly target 3.4), not only through the architectural characteristics and features but also the social aspects and interaction with surrounding communities, which proved its effectiveness during the last COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Affordable and clean energy (targets 7.1 and 7.3). One of the most important features of this project is its high energy efficiency rating, achieved through the integration of innovative construction methods such as high-performance insulation, increased use of natural light and the use of environmentally friendly materials such as locally produced timber frames and bricks.
  • Sustainable cities and communities (targets 11.1, 11.6 and 11.7). As part of the larger urban fabric, the project contributes to the overall sustainability agenda of the surrounding districts. Affordability is also one of its distinguishing features, where all of the homes are under the affordability scheme of the local council.


Davies, N., & Jokiniemi, E. (2008). Dictionary of architecture and building construction: Routledge.

DBEIS. (2013). Standard Assessment Procedure. December, 2021. Retrieved from

DBEIS. (2014). Annex B: Energy Performance Certificate data. (URN 14D/192). UK: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Retrieved from

DK-A. (2021). North Wingfield Project. Retrieved from

DLUHC. (2014). Energy Performance of Buildings Certificates: glossary. Retrieved from

DLUHC. (2021). Energy performance certificate (EPC): Breakdown of property’s energy performance. Retrieved from

HDA. (2021). North Wingfield Road, Description of the design. Retrieved from

Sterjova, M. (2017). Timber framing – A rediscovered technique for building a home. Retrieved from

Wheatley, P. (2020). New Build Homes, Grassmoor, Chesterfield. Retrieved from

Related vocabulary

Sustainability of the built environment

Area: Design, planning and building

Sustainability of the built environment The emergence of the contemporary environmental movement between the 1960s and 1970s and its proposals to remedy the consequences of pollution can be seen as one of the first steps in addressing environmental problems (Scoones, 2007). However, the term “sustainable” only gained wider currency when it was introduced into political discourse by the Club of Rome with its 1972 report “The Limits to Growth”, in which the proposal to change growth trends to be sustainable in the far future was put forward (Grober, 2007; Kopnina & Shoreman-Ouimet, 2015a; Meadows et al., 1972). Since then, the use of the term has grown rapidly, especially after the publication of the 1978 report “Our Common Future”, which became a cornerstone of debates on sustainability and sustainable development (Brundtland et al., 1987; Kopnina & Shoreman-Ouimet, 2015a). Although the two terms are often used indistinctively, the former refers to managing resources without depleting them for future generations, while the latter aims to improve long-term economic well-being and quality of life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Kopnina & Shoreman-Ouimet, 2015b; UNESCO, 2015). The Brundtland Report paved the way for the 1992 Earth Summit, which concluded that an effective balance must be found between consumption and conservation of natural resources (Scoones, 2007). In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly published the 8 Millennium Development Goals (UN, 2000), which led to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published in 2016 (UN, 2016). The 17 SDGs call on all countries to mobilise their efforts to end all forms of poverty, tackle inequalities and combat climate change (UN, 2020; UNDP, 2018). Despite the rapidly growing literature on sustainability, the term remains ambiguous and lacks a clear conceptual foundation (Grober, 2007; Purvis et al., 2019). Murphy (2012) suggests that when defining sustainability, the question should be: Sustainability, of what? However, one of the most prominent interpretations of sustainability is the three pillars concept, which describes the interaction between the social, economic and environmental components of society (Purvis et al., 2019). The environmental pillar aims to improve human well-being by protecting natural capital -e.g. land, air and water- (Morelli, 2011). The economic sustainability pillar focuses on maintaining stable economic growth without damaging natural resources (Dunphy et al., 2000). Social sustainability, on the other hand, aims to preserve social capital and create a practical social framework that provides a comprehensive view of people's needs, communities and culture (Diesendorf, 2000). This latter pillar paved the way for the creation of a fourth pillar that includes human and culture as a focal point in sustainability objectives (RMIT, 2017). Jabareen (2006) describes environmental sustainability as a dynamic, inclusive and multidisciplinary concept that overlaps with other concepts such as resilience, durability and renewability. Morelli (2011) adds that it can be applied at different levels and includes tangible and intangible issues. Portney (2015) takes Morelli's explanation further and advocates that environmental sustainability should also promote industrial efficiency without compromising society's ability to develop (Morelli, 2011; Portney, 2015). Measuring the built environment sustainability level is a complex process that deploys quantitative methods, including (1) indexes (e.g. energy efficiency rate), (2) indicators (e.g. carbon emissions and carbon footprint), (3) benchmarks (e.g. water consumption per capita) and (4) audits (e.g. building management system efficiency) (Arjen, 2015; Berardi, 2012; James, 2014; Kubba, 2012). In recent years, several rating or certification systems and practical guides have been created and developed to measure sustainability, most notably the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) introduced in the UK in 1990 (BRE, 2016) and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) established in the US in 2000 (USGBC, 2018). In addition, other overlapping methodologies and certification frameworks have emerged, such as the European Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in 2002 (EPB, 2003) and the European Framework for Sustainable Buildings, also known as Level(s) in 2020 (EU, 2020), amongst others. The sustainability of the built environment aims to reduce human consumption of natural resources and the production of waste while improving the health and comfort of inhabitants and thus the performance of the built environment elements such as buildings and spaces, and the infrastructure that supports human activities (Berardi, 2012; McLennan, 2004). This aim requires an effective theoretical and practical framework that encompasses at least six domains, including land, water, energy, indoor and outdoor environments, and economic and cultural preservation (Ferwati et al., 2019). More recently, other domains have been added, such as health and comfort, resource use, environmental performance, and cost-benefit and risk (EU, 2020). Sustainability of the built environment also requires comprehensive coordination between the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical and environmental systems of buildings in the design, construction and operation phases to improve performance and avoid unnecessary resource consumption (Yates & Castro-Lacouture, 2018).

Created on 24-06-2022

Author: K.Hadjri (Supervisor), M.Alsaeed (ESR5)


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Sustainable developments in social housing, a secondment at South Yorkshire Housing Association.

Posted on 18-08-2022

It's been a few months now since I completed my secondment with South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) and writing this post is more difficult than I expected. However, before I continue, I need to clarify some of the key terms mentioned so far. Firstly, a secondment is a defined period of time during which an employee is sent to another organisation to gain experience, increase the workforce or share knowledge (Cambridge, n.d.). A housing association is broadly defined as a society, trust or company that provides, builds, improves or manages housing, or facilitates or promotes the construction of housing, and operates on a not-for-profit basis (HMSO, 1985). Its role has recently expanded to include other social services that focus on vulnerable at-risk groups. Against this background, my work at SYHA has been to research and identify the process of developing sustainable social housing and to participate in real projects to measure housing sustainability and to work with housing associations. Background. The story of South Yorkshire Housing Association begins when founder John Belcher set up Sheffield Family Housing Association to help young homeless families after watching the BBC drama 'Cathy Come Home' in 1972. Almost 50 years later, South Yorkshire Housing Association still builds and manages a range of services, including social housing, affordable rented housing, shared ownership housing and other social support services (SYHA, 2021a). In recent years, SYHA has changed its business model to the concept of "The business is more than housing", focusing on and prioritising other important challenges such as the wellbeing and social needs of its tenants and environmental challenges, in particular climate change, energy efficiency and carbon emissions (SYHA, 2021b). Unlike the conventional 'departmental organisational structure' that follows a strict service typology or structures tailored to role descriptions. SYHA has a unique and dynamic organisational structure guided by the principles of goal setting and services defined as continuous strengthening of resources and improvement of staff performance (SYHA, 2021b, Jacobides, 2007). According to SYHA's latest annual report, total assets owned, managed or under construction amount to more than 6,000 housing units. These include flats, terraced houses, detached houses, semi-detached houses and residential communities (SYHA, 2021c). From strategic plan to theory. Housing is a big part of the climate change problem, accounting for 27 per cent of UK carbon emissions and consuming up to 30 per cent of inland generated energy (DBEIS, 2020). In response, SYHA has developed a strategic plan to achieve the UK's 2050 zero carbon target and help mitigate the impact of climate change on people's health, wellbeing and access to housing (SYHA, 2020). The strategic plan is to (1) identify and calculate the current carbon footprint (2) improve the management of asset data, (3) identify the necessary behavioural changes and engage with end users to reduce their impact on the natural and built environment (read Andreas Panagidis post on participation in planning), (4) improve the energy efficiency of existing homes and tackle fuel poverty (read Tijn Croon post on energy poverty), (5) build new homes to high environmental standards and develop future-proof changes to our current design standard, as well as test new approaches, (6) reduce fossil fuel use across all business areas, (7) update the business plan to respond to various challenges. From theory to practice. In analysing several projects, I have found that SYHA has successfully translated strategic plans into practical guidelines for 'best practice', creating several award-winning projects such as the North Wingfield social housing complex. The guidelines include: (1) Spatial requirements by creating a meeting point between building regulations and actual needs and recognising the different lifestyle preferences of end users, (2) The design of residential neighbourhoods taking into account cultural and natural elements, (3) The connectivity and accessibility of projects and maximising the use of existing infrastructure without depleting resources, (4) Sustainable landscaping and drainage to reduce the impact of artificial landscapes and integrate native components into projects, (5) Modern construction methods that enable safe and fast construction with minimal waste generation.. From practice to research. The main aim of the secondment is to engage the researcher in real projects to measure environmental sustainability and develop a framework for affordable, low-carbon homes. To achieve this goal, I was expected to (1) conduct quantitative and qualitative research and engage with local and international partners and stakeholders, and (2) accurately record and analyse data to provide useful insights for other academics, funders, policy makers and practitioners. I used a variety of research methods such as systematic content analysis, informal interviews and observation. The data collected was analysed from an intervention research perspective. From research to practice. The outcome of the secondment was the development of an online platform that overcomes the challenges and risks identified in the analysis; the platform includes, among other functions, the following. (1) Sustainability practices, by clarifying the principles, tools and structure of environmental sustainability that enhance the existing SYHA project flow chart and overall development processes. (2) Reduce misunderstandings about sustainability and social housing by creating a top-down glossary of terminologies that unifies the language within housing association practices. From SYHA to RE-DWELL. At the end of the secondment, I was able to list and explain the processes used by SYHA and other housing associations in the UK to develop sustainable social housing. The process is complicated and requires extensive analysis of building regulations, policy development and project flow charts. More importantly, I have tested and validated my research gaps to ultimately create valid research questions that respond to real-life challenges. The analysis of SYAH practices provided valuable input for my PhD thesis and helped in the selection of exploratory case studies. All in all, the secondment was an important tool that RE-DWELL used to guide and support my research project. Acknowledgement. The three months I spent at SYHA provided me with great theoretical data, but what was really interesting was meeting the people of SYHA. I received tremendous support from all the team members, and so I have to thank everyone at SYHA and especially Jon Walker, Natalie Newman, Eira Capelan and Robert Milne.     References CAMBRIDGE n.d. Secondment definition In: UNIVERSITY, C. (ed.) Cambridge dictionary. United Kingdom.   DBEIS 2020. Energy Consumption in the UK (ECUK) 1970 to 2019 In: (ONS), O. O. N. S. (ed.) National Statistics. London: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.   HMSO 1985. The Housing Associations Act 1985: Chapter 69. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.   JACOBIDES, M. G. 2007. The inherent limits of organizational structure and the unfulfilled role of hierarchy: Lessons from a near-war. Organization Science, 18, 455-477.   SYHA. 2020. Our Strategic Plan 2020-2023 [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed 2021].   SYHA. 2021a. Our history [Online]. UK. Available: [Accessed].   SYHA. 2021b. Our purpose [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed].   SYHA. 2021c. Who we are [Online]. UK: South Yorkshire Housing Association. Available: [Accessed].

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)


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The case study decoder

Posted on 28-10-2021

Case study analysis. These are the three most confusing words – at least for me. Although being an architect has taught me the meaning and principles of case study selection and analysis, I still face difficulties with grasping the true benefits of the case study, specifically from the social sciences point of view. Therefore, in this blog post, I aim to clarify what the case study is, the history of the case study, and the different methodologies for investigating the case study.   The ‘case study’ as a case study ‘There are two ways to learn about a subject: One may study many examples at once, focussing on a few dimensions, or one may study particular examples in greater depth.’ Gerring, 2016   Let’s start with the basics and ask, ‘How does one define case study?’ Let’s break this concept up into its relevant pieces. Firstly, case means, ‘A particular situation or example of something.’ This situation may be comprised of states or state-like entities (regions or municipalities), organisations (firms or schools), social groups (race or age), events (revolutions or crises), or individuals (a biography or profile). Secondly, study, means, ‘The activity of examining a subject in detail to discover new information.’ By merging both of these meanings, a broad definition of case study is reached: A comprehensive investigation of a particular case (or cases) within a specific context, both of which are determined by the investigation interests (Gerring, 2016). When investigating the meaning of a case study, several associated terminologies arise, such as argument, observation and sample. An argument denotes the focal point of study and is defined as the theory, proposition or hypothesis driving the analysis. As observations govern the behaviour and use of variables in a case study, an observation can be said to define the strict boundaries of the units of analysis. Lastly, a sample is the data that are subject to analysis, which can either be singular or a collection of data (Gerring, 2016).   The origin of the case study The debate around the origin of the case study continues. One school of thought suggests that the case study as a form of research is an ancient concept and has been used throughout recorded history. Another theory states that the case study as a method of education was invented in the 1880s by Christopher Columbus Langdell, who was the Dean of Harvard Law School between 1870 and 1895. Yet another group suggests that the case study as a methodology originated from French economist, engineer and sociologist Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play around 1829, when he used this methodology to test his theories before publication. I am sure you have noticed the differences within these groups: the case study as a form of research; the case study as a method of education; and the case study as a methodology (Harrison et al., 2017). Even though there are different uses for case studies in these designations, all of these groups agree that, by the mid-to-late nineteenth century, case studies had become the norm as teaching tools for developing new theories and hypotheses. By the start of the twentieth century, industrialists began looking at using the case study to develop their own theories on efficiency, manufacturing, supply lines and so forth (Carter, 2018, Gerring, 2016, Harvard, 2016). Despite the different opinions on its origin, the use of the case study spiked in the 1970s and has only continued to grow since (figure 1). This is mainly because of the increase in attention to its approaches, including the development of several new approaches. This is in conjunction with a noticeable increase in the use of case studies in publications, both in the social and applied sciences, as case study research is considered a primary methodology in testing and proving new theories and hypotheses (Gerring, 2016).   The types Case study as a form of research has many different forms, with each dictating different approaches and deploying different instruments. Discussing all of the types would result in a very dense list, so the main four types are discussed below (Harrison et al., 2017): -  Descriptive (illustrative) case study: used to examine a familiar case in order to help others understand it. Its primary method is the description of the variables. -  Exploratory case study: used to identify research questions within real-life contexts and situations. It is often deployed before large-scale investigations, making it is very popular in the social sciences, particularly political science. -  Cumulative case study: used to gather information on the topic at hand at different times. This type is widely used for qualitative research. -  Critical instance case study: used to determine the causes and consequences of an event, and investigates one or more phenomena. A critical instance case study can also be used to test a universal assertion.   So far! In summary, it is safe to say that the case study is a method of analysis that is no longer confined to just developing theories and hypotheses. It is a technique of research that also makes a case for coming up with solutions for given problems. It is worth noting that, unlike most of the statistically-based studies, the main goal of creating a case study is to look for some new variables while you are conducting research. Simply put, the case study looks to the characteristics of the past and present to make sense of the future. Choosing which case study to analyse is usually the most important and difficult task in this research process. Therefore, a systematic framework that defines the research problems, questions and objectives needs to be created so as to make it easier to find the relevant case study that can address the research needs of the project.   References CARTER, A. 2018. The History of the Case Study – Why It’s Important [Online]. Available: [Accessed]. GERRING, J. 2016. Case study research: Principles and practices, Cambridge University Press. HARRISON, H., BIRKS, M., FRANKLIN, R. & MILLS, J. Case study research: Foundations and methodological orientations.  Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 2017. HARVARD. 2016. The Case Study Teaching Method [Online]. Harvard Law school Available: [Accessed].

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)



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