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North Wingfield Road social housing complex.

Created on 17-05-2022 | Updated on 31-05-2022

The case presented is one of 11 similar affordable family houses with 100 per cent social housing tenure and a mix of two and three-bedroom units. It was 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 houses drew inspiration from the surrounding rural environment, especially farmstead and crew yard configurations – clusters of buildings around large farm buildings – which are an essential element of the local identity.

The central common space arranges the homes, amenities and landscaping to create a user-friendly environment that provides a sense of containment, safety and immersion in the surrounding natural landscape. Through its energy efficiency rating (EPC 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. This led to an award in the 2021 Housing Design Awards (a UK based competition), marking the project as an example of ‘good practice’ in social housing development that aligns with the UK sustainability agenda.


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)

Urban context

Construction system
Timber frame

Selected option
New building


The rapid development of modern cities continues to produce a variety of designs that aim to express the latest design trends and techniques, and finding the balance between usability, technology integration and sustainability is an architecturally challenging task (Schröder, 2018). According to Housing Design Award (2021), the North Wingfield homes follow a contemporary design theme and possess several innovative features, including the well-planned use of space and the clear conceptual diagram that extends beyond the interior spaces to include a common yard serving as a meet and greet social space for the tenants; the inspiration for the yard was drawn from local features, the farmstead and crew yard concept in particular (HDA, 2021). The architect (DK-Architects) adapting a see-through (semi-open) fence style that extends the sightline into the surrounding rural environment provides a comforting splash of green colour inside each housing unit, while the semi-raised upper massing extends the continuity of the yard and provides a semi-enclosed space, increasing the sense of security and containment (DK-A, 2021). At the same time, the front row buildings offer a distinct identity from the surrounding developments, through the use of colours and materials, which also act as a gateway to the project (DK-A, 2021; HDA, 2021). Each home encloses its own mini agricultural space, which proved its value to support and foster the residents well-being.

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 the structure with a superior thermal envelope that requires minimal maintenance and provides a fit-and-forget solution for the lifetime of the building. In addition, both labour and material costs can be significantly reduced, with less reliance on trade skills and multiple suppliers; this aligns with government plans to revamp the construction regulations to consider more bold and creative sustainable construction methods (Davies & Jokiniemi, 2008; Sterjova, 2017). The construction process starts with ground treatment followed by the casting of the foundations on-site, while at the same time the timber frames are manufactured off-site at the supplier’s factory (ultimately reducing construction activities and hence carbon emissions), the frames are then transported to the site for fixing and external treatment, while the overall construction activities progress in parallel instead of the conventional phase end and start method (Figure 1) (Wheatley, 2020). A combination of multi-colour brickwork and dark corrugated cladding not only provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance but also helps to capture heat, ultimately reducing heating energy use for at least seven months of the year (DK-A, 2021). Meanwhile, the review of materials used shows double-glazed high-performance windows, the walls possess an average thermal transmittance of 0.20 W/m²K both lead to high thermal resistance, ultimately contributing to the building's environmental performance (DLUHC, 2021).

One of the important ‘quantitative’ environmental indicators 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) that 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:

“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).

Another indicator is the Environmental Impact Score (EIS), used to show a building's impact on the environment in terms of its estimated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, calculated at the time of its EPC assessment (DLUHC, 2014); where the higher the score, the lower the impact of the building on the environment; like the EPC categories, the environmental impact rating is banded from A to G (DBEIS, 2014).

North Wingfield homes possess an EPC and EIS rating of B category; both indicators have the potential to be A. The review of the EPC and EIS data shows 1.4 tonnes of CO2 annually produced; this is less than a quarter of the average household emission of 6 tonnes while improving the EIS rate to A will cut the CO2 production to 0.3 tonnes, marking the development as one of the environmentally friendly designs (DLUHC, 2021) (Figure 2).

Alignment with project research areas

RE-DWELL projects are classified into three categories: design, planning and building (with five sub-categories); community participation (with four sub-categories) and policy and finance (with four sub-categories). The case study provides good insights into this green building method of construction and its code of practice while supporting research to understand the industrialised construction principles (both of which are from the first category). Meanwhile, the outcomes of this project are considered to be an example of inclusive design (category two of RE-DWELL projects), not only because of the aims but also the role played by the tenants in maintaining the sustainability of the community, allowing the research to investigate the essential parts of community involvement in similar projects. Nevertheless, this project is 100 per cent social housing and it had to achieve full compliance with local social housing policies, including decarbonisation and build for the future schemes; it is also worth mentioning that through its innovative design the project adopted several local innovative procurements. All of the aforementioned made this project a good example for close analysis and helped guide the research to map the practice of designing and constructing social housing in the UK (Figure 3).

Alignment with SDGs

Although this is a small-scale project, a close examination to the relationship with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows that the project is well aligned with several of the goals (Figure 4):

  • 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

Schröder, T. (2018). Translating the concept of sustainability into architectural design practices: The case of London City Hall. Paper presented at the Research Culture in Architecture-international conference on cross-disciplinary collaboration: 27 and 28 September, 2018. Hosted by FATUK-Faculty of Architecture, TU Kaiserslautern.

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

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

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