Scheme Summary

11 houses have been constructed as part of the regeneration of the Castle Vale Estate, Birmingham. The scheme includes a terrace of ten houses and one detached house that bring together innovative environmental construction and interesting design. Completed February 2001.

Scheme Details

Focus worked closely with PCKO Architects to develop a timber framed sustainable development. The resulting scheme at Watton Green provides quality homes that break from the traditional brick homes ubiquitous to the Castle Vale Estate. Instead the properties introduce design interest and innovation to the estate. The development has achieved maximum SAP and hopes to secure and Excellent EcoHomes rating. Working with Castle Vale Housing Action Trust and Castle Vale Community Housing Association, 11 families from the estate will be re-housed in comfortable, light, energy efficient and environment friendly new homes.

Environmental Features

Using TRADIS pre-fabricated insulated wall panels and roof cassettes, an open plan shell was erected quickly. All internal walls are non load bearing to allow flexibility and adaptability to lifetime changes. This use of roof cassettes enabled the roof space to be used adding valuable working and storage area and an extra 10% of space standards. All timber is from a sustainable source. The panels have high thermal performance, with cellulose insulation (recycled newspaper) well exceeding Building Regulations. The panels achieve U values of 0.19Wm2C and are foam and resin free.

The panel system provides interest in design as the structural components allow cantilevered structures to be incorporated producing overhanging and bridging features. Teamed with cedar cladding and coloured Trespa boards an interesting and distinctive street scene result.

The buildings' orientation exploit passive solar gain. Windows of various sizes help reduce energy consumption, whilst adding design interest.

A central service core houses all necessary connections, natural ventilation ducts and sun pipes (providing natural daylighting to bathrooms). This enables easy access for servicing, maintenance and adds flexibility for internal layout design.

The homes are draught free. Passive ventilation (Passivent) systems will provide fresh air to the rooms and reduce the risk of condensation.

Water conservation features include 6 litre low flush WCs, showers over baths, aerated taps and water butts. The houses have been built to Lifetime Homes standard to enable flexibility to accommodate residents throughout their lifetimes.


The overall scheme cost is expected to be in the region of 958,000, with an average unit cost of 87,000 or 692 per m2. Additional costs arising from the small scale purchasing of timber cassettes has been offset, to some extent, by savings on site from faster construction times and the use of fewer trades. PCKO designed the homes to maximise off site factory production methods that could be replicated in future developments.

Residents pay standard rents, ensuring the houses are affordable. The energy efficient design and construction offers the potential for substantial energy and water savings to be made by residents.

Developer's Comments

Focus wanted to offer quality homes with low rents whilst taking into account the need for housing to be sustainable. In the view of Focus, social housing can be stigmatised by its appearance and addressing this was also a key priority. A varied and interesting design has been achieved without compromising sustainability or affordability. Although factory produced cassette systems have been little used in the UK, it is hoped that the teething problems experienced with programming and delivery will be overcome when used again by Focus. Focus plan to hold review meetings with all of the parties involved in the project in order to produce evolutionary designs for future schemes. This recognises the tremendous potential it has for sustainable development and the benefits of further development of existing partnerships.

Focus Housing Group,
Daimler House,
Paradise Circus,
Birmingham B1 2BJ
Tel: 0241 687 5000
Fax: 0241 687 5099