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Showcasing innovation in new-build

Alpine Close


Alpine Close in Maidenhead is a 27 unit development completed for Housing Solutions Group, a registered housing association, in September, 2001. Housing Solutions had a brownfield site (previously a car park) on which they were keen to carry out a sustainable housing project. It was ideally suited for housing, being 5 minutes walk to the train station and ten minutes walk to the town centre. The Group aimed to incorporative as much innovation as possible in order to maximise future benefits to residents. Consequently the scheme has acted a test bed for new ideas, solutions and processes.

Building details

Type of building: New-build, timber-framed social housing

Project description

Aim In 1998, the housing association ‘Housing Solutions’ approached INTEGER with a scheme for a site in Maidenhead. The aim was to incorporate as many INTEGER elements of innovation in design, intelligence, environmental performance and construction process as possible in order to maximise the benefits to the future occupants. The design incorporated many innovative environmental features concerning low energy use, and therefore, low bills for tenants was a central theme.
Key points Design and Construction Innovation
- Houses were oriented and configured to benefit from passive solar gain from their south-west elevation;
- Garages which exited the site were crushed and recycled used as fill under vehicular areas and paths;
- The use of pre-cast concrete floor slabs meant that intermediate foundations between load-bearing walls could be eliminated. Consequently less spoil was excavated and less concrete was used in the foundations;
- Low maintenance, untreated, sustainable western red cedar was used as cladding. Timber windows were stained at the factory with a non-solvent-based stain;
- The green alpine sedum roofs used are durable, visually acceptable, manage water run-off effectively and act as a mini-habitat for wildlife;
- The blocks were designed so that all services were located in a vertical core, with the bathroom and kitchen back-to-back, allowing all services to be pre-installed within prefabricated pods;
- Timber frames were designed so that windows could be fitted in the factor, aiming for better workmanship and fewer operations on site.

Environmental Technologies

- Water from baths and basins is treated and recycled
through a grey water recycling system used for flushing the toilets;

- Surface water from the roof is collected, treated with UV light to kill bacteria and is then stored for irrigation of the gardens;

- low-flush toilets and water efficient taps are installed to minimise water usage;

- Use of efficient recycled cellulose insulation means that energy loss from these buildings is less than half of that permitted under building regulations;

- Solar water heating is used to augment domestic hot water otherwise produced using a centralised gas-fired boiler;

- Intelligent heating controls manage the heating load in relation to room temperature, so that if the room is already warm enough, the heating will not come on, even if programmed to do so;

- Heat and utility metering, and a building management system allow remote diagnosis and system management, as well as greater transparency for the tenant;

- Photovoltaic (PV) panels are used to generate electricity which is used to supplement supply form the grid. The system is remotely monitored by the manufacturers for performance;

- Surplus energy from the PV panels is sold back to the energy supplier and monitoring of the incoming and outgoing flow allow tenants to gain credit on their energy bills for any electricity that is fed back.

Reason for inclusion as Shining Example This Shining Example showcases a life-cycle approach to new build design by minimising the environmental impact of both the construction and the in-use performance. The 27-unit INTEGER development at Alpine Close in Maidenhead was the Overall winner in Category A: ‘Large Schemes’, at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead 2004 design awards.


Costs &


The project was jointly funded by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and the Housing Corporation.
Benefits The dwellings achieved excellent SAP ratings, leading to exceptional fuel bill savings for tenants:


Partnership details The scheme proved to be popular with residents, who were selected from the top of the housing waiting list. The residents self-selected to move into the development on the basis of a 3D virtual reality representation. Just one couple out of 30 householders offered a home turned down the opportunity.

_ Comments from residents include:

“It was like winning the lottery. It was a really nice flat in a nice area, close to town…and with solar panels etc. everything you could say you could possibly like is there.”

The consultation revealed that residents would be reluctant to return to standard housing. Features such as the appearance, temperatures, ventilation, and number of electrical sockets, solar spaces and the feeling of security have proved very popular with residents. Residents have also been particularly impressed with the low running costs.

_ The scheme has also proved popular with other housing providers and the general public. Housing Solutions have been inundated with enquiries as to whether to buy one of the homes.


Achievements Housing Solutions is keen to build more innovative homes and the scheme has proved invaluable for the offering of services to other local authorities. The positive response from the public has led Housing Solutions to consider similar properties of shared ownership.
Lessons Learned - Installation of PV panels would not have been effective without grant support from the Department of Trade and Industry. The solar hot water systems installed proved to be more cost-effective;
- Prefabricated timber panels facilitated a quicker and cleaner construction process, minimising disturbance to local residents. The use of prefabricated kitchen and bathroom pods saved and estimated €1,440 per flat;
- For the prefabrication pods to be cost-effective, multiples of the same unit needed to be produced. In this scheme plans for the 19 flats were amended at the design stage to enable repetition of the bathroom and part of the kitchen;
- The use of this pod system was reasonably successful, although the way in which the kitchen end of the pod was left open made it vulnerable to damamge during storage. It was also considered to leave off the external linings in future pods, to obtain a better finish;
- The central service core was a success, although lessons were learnt about making a clear division between prefabrication plumbing and electrics, and their on-site equivalents;
- Passive solar design considerations such as small north-facing windows and southern aspect to living areas are simple and cost effective means to reducing the heating load.
- Community heating systems eliminate problems associated with gaining access to individual flats and the use of intelligent controls enable residents to control the heating in individual flats.

To know more



i and i Limited
Contact Alison Nicholl
Phone +44(0)1923665950

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