Bloomsbury residence demonstrates value of sustainability

Faced with four neglected Victorian buildings on a constricted central London site, developers were confronted with the challenge of how to bring them up to modern habitable living standards without compromising on the heritage aspect of the surroundings.

By embracing sustainability and paying due consideration to both traditional and new materials, a BREEAM Excellent rated development, that offers an 80% reduction in carbon emissions, has been achieved.

Set within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area in central London, the Victorian buildings on the busy Gray’s Inn Road were completely reconstructed to produce 16 high quality apartments. The 1,064m2 regeneration scheme, called The Lincolns, is a classic example of how run-down and inefficient building stock can be given a new lease of life and meet today’s need for sustainable living. In doing so they achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating score of 74.4% and created an exemplar of sustainable regeneration.

The scheme, by developers MHA, included weaving a fabric of design challenges into a patchwork of sustainability, quality and conscious conservation. Improving an underwhelming row of four properties in a busy part of Bloomsbury focused on retaining its original Victorian façade, but going back to the drawing board on everything behind it. The team turned to BREEAM methodologies as a way of linking the two facets of the project – heritage protection and sustainability.

This new residential scheme comprises of 16 units behind a retained period façade. The mixture of one and two-bedroom, single and dual-aspect units are accessed through a single designated residential entrance and sit above ground floor retail units.

Architects Robin Partington and Partners and principal contractor, Cardy Construction, sought high levels of responsible sourcing for all key building materials and insulation, which included the reuse of large parts of the existing façade materials in situ. The building fabric was optimised with a super-insulated envelope combined with highly efficient gas boilers and renewable technologies that saw a reduction in carbon emissions compared to previous use.

Protecting heritage

The challenges of the project not only came from retaining and rebuilding the important listed frontage to Gray’s Inn Road, but also through the use of traditional materials combined with an energy strategy that included integrated photovoltaic roof panels, high levels of thermal insulation, efficient heat recovery systems and a bio-diversity (green) roof. It was running theme for the project team throughout the rebuild: to combine traditional materials such as timber and brick but also integrate modern materials for best practice.

Andi Kercini, Project Architect at Robin Partington and Partners, commented:

“It was challenging for us because we set the goal of BREEAM Excellent right from the start, and combined this with wanting to ensure conservation was important. We devised a tracker system where everyone was involved in the process and kept informed at all stages.”

Ben Richardson from Project Managers APM Services added:

“The scheme is aimed at housing demographic which often places sustainability behind location and luxury. However the project demonstrates the importance of sustainability and how this can add value to home owners, in terms of creating high quality, low energy and desirable living spaces. The BREEAM Excellent rating is a testament to the design and management of the project.”

Consideration of the home environment also saw increased awareness and user control of ventilation, energy consumption, water use and waste recycling – achieved without compromising the high quality interior design through an integrated and co-ordinated design process. Home display devices were specified to provide occupants with real time usage figures, alongside high efficiency domestic appliances and low energy LED lighting.

It also included the ability to use a space as a home office and the provision of cycle storage within the curtilage of the building itself.

Added Andi Kercini:

“A key reason for the success of the project is the time invested in sourcing the right kind of materials. We had to find specialist sash window designers who could provide us with period timber windows that offer high acoustic ratings and had high U-values.”

APM’s Ben Richardson said:

“The ability to introduce key sustainable values to a high end residential development was considered quite a challenge. However, we found not only did it provide economic justification, it also became a reflection of high quality design and specification that was met very positively by the market.”

Based upon the buildings pre-refurbished condition the apartments achieved carbon emission reductions of over 80% on average across the 16 dwellings, including renewable technologies contributing to a 20% reduction in carbon emissions, taking the EPC rating from a combined average of G to a high B rating.

Amelia Bardot at APM Services added:

“Achieving such a great BREEAM score shows that even residential schemes with conservation, location and logistical complexities can still provide a benchmark for sustainability and good quality design.”

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