As reported by Housebuilder & Property Developer magazine – July 2019

Situated five miles outside Lincoln, Woodlands Edge is an ‘eco’ housing development being built by Gusto Homes. PHPD discovers more about how the company built sustainability into both the new homes and the wider site.

Nestled on a leafy 12-acre site just five miles from Lincoln city centre, Woodlands Edge is not a typical new-build development. With its own private woodland, tennis court, ponds and an allotment for every household, the development has been designed with space, and sustainability, in mind.

“Twenty years’ experience of building eco-homes has gone into this site, not just the sustainable houses but the community element as well,” said Steff Wright, Gusto Homes CEO, who loves the place so much he lives there himself.

“We’ve really pushed the boundaries and built something absolutely unique in terms of the energy performance of the houses and the lifestyle. This is how housing should be.”

Phased approach
The first phase of the development was completed around two years ago. A further 11 homes are currently being built – six four-beds and five two-beds.

All the homes are fully electric and generate the majority of their power from integrated solar panels on the roof. Steff Wright explained: “The heating system is a simple infra-red heating panel mounted on the ceiling of each room and the hot water is heated in a standard hot water cylinder. However, the power for the immersion comes from the solar PV via an ImmerSun power diverter ensuring the majority of the hot water is heated with free electricity.”

The homes also contain air filtration and heat recovery systems, and the heating can be controlled by a mobile phone app.

Overall the company believe the running costs are typically less than £1 a day.

Building methodology
The homes have been built using a variety of systems, partly to highlight a range of different building methodologies. Steff explained: “We have used three different construction methods across the 29 properties, as we were keen to use this site to showcase how a similar building performance can be achieved with different construction methods.

“The first 18 properties were constructed using an insulated concrete formwork method with polystyrene blocks. The two-bed properties are timber frame and the large four-bed properties are a blockwork construction with a 200mm cavity.”

The company incorporated passive house principles, but chose not to stick rigidly to a single approach. Steff explained: “Building low-energy homes for 20 years has enabled us to get great feedback through the design, construction, sales and post-occupation phases. This has taught us that rigidly sticking to Passivhaus doesn’t necessarily result in the most appropriate design.”

Community spirit
But the eco-credentials are just a small part of life at Woodlands Edge. Everybody who buys a property also gets a share in the resident-owned management company, giving them input into improving and managing the site.

There are also regular community activities including Bollywood dance classes, tai chi lessons and even an annual gin festival. And for those that really want to muck in and get their hands dirty, there’s a plant store on site containing lawnmowers and rotavators, while regular working parties are organised to carry out things like bulb planting.

Dr Bob Price and his wife Sheelagh moved in around 18 months ago. Bob said: “One of the unexpected joys of moving here is the community life that we have found, which was something I didn’t really think about beforehand. No one is in any way intrusive or invasive but if you need them they are there.” Having worked in sport all his life, Bob is now using his experience to run the weekly tai chi classes for other residents.

The community at Woodlands Edge is diverse, with a mixture of working age and retired householders. Gusto Homes hopes the new detached four-bedroom properties will attract families with children, who will benefit from the safe open space surrounding them.

The company feels that the two-bedroom properties are more likely to appeal to those looking to downsize, but who still want the benefit of being surrounded by lots of land. This was the case for Tina and Steve White, who moved in two years ago.
Tina, 57, said: “The thing that first attracted us was the house itself. There is so much light and space, and we loved all the eco credentials.

“We’d come from a 200-year-old cottage, so you couldn’t get much more different, but the moment we walked inside the show home I loved it – the light and the view and the fantastic space. It was just really wonderful.”