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Ling Estate

Ling Estate


Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council wanted to challenge the mediocrity in current homebuilding practice, and raise the public expectations as to what form a social housing development should take.

Consequently the Head of Housing Improvement for the Council commissioned the services of the action research partnership called INTEGER; whose primary objective is to harness the forces of intelligent and green design, in order to meet today’s dynamic social and economic demands in housing.

In its brief to INTEGER, Sandwell wanted 15 new homes that emulated these objectives, demonstrating a step change in the delivery of social housing by incorporating both sustainable and intelligent technologies and processes in the development’s design and construction.

Building details

Type of building: New-build, timber framed and clad social housing
Year of construction: 2001
Heating and cooling / measures installed Heating and cooling load is virtually eliminated due to high thermal insulation of building fabric. A single boiler provides supplementary heating of all dwellings during particularly cold periods.


Aim To raise expectations of what social housing should encapsulate, by incorporating intelligent and green design features.
Key points Innovative Design and Construction
- Timber wall panels were filled with recycled cellulose insulation, allowing expedient construction and near perfect SAP energy efficiency scores;
- Western red cedar cladding, rendered in part with red acrylic paint to create visual interest in a location with a strong tradition for brick build;
- Low-maintenance aluminium roofing adding visual impact;
- Glazed entrance lobbies to the apartments create an attractive solar space and/or winter garden, making any would-be burglars more visible. Double-story solar conservatories provide the same effect for the houses.

Sustainable Technologies

- Passive stack ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms, eliminating the need for electrical extractor fans;

- Solar water heaters creating domestic hot water to a maximum temperature of 75oC. These are linked to a boiler which is turned on by a sensor if the heater draws insufficient solar energy to reach the required temperature;

- A grey water system, which treats and recycles water from the bath to be re-used to flush the toilet. In addition, this system is topped up by rainwater, via a diverter at the bottom of rainwater down-pipes;

- A single central boiler system is used to meet the low heat demand of these highly insulated homes;

- Intelligent controls judge the optimum time for boiler operation, and heat metering and Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) in every dwelling allow environmental control for the individual tenant.

A central plank to the projects communication strategy, due in large part to the involvement of INTEGER, was to engage with the local schools. As a result, more than 200 local primary and secondary school pupils have used this development as a case study focusing on six curriculum areas: the house, ICT, design, environment, science and citizenship. _ Through this process, information regarding intelligent and sustainable technologies has been passed from the construction site into people’s daily lives, facilitating community action and social change.

Reason for inclusion as Shining Example This project exemplifies the impact out-of-the-box thinking can have on local communities, especially when they are involved in that very process. Perhaps of equal importance, this project is a Shining Example of learning from and sharing lessons when unforeseen problems arise.


Costs &


Analysis by Andrews Partnership revealed that the project came in at € 996 m2, 6% above the cost of conventional social housing, once excluding optional spaces such as the solar spaces, grey water recycling, passive stack ventilation and solar water heating.
It was estimated that the use of modern construction methods led to a one-off saving of €36,000.
The project manager believed that a similar development containing 40 units would have actually cost less than standard Housing Corporation indicative costs.
Benefits Integration of sustainable technologies have led to significant reductions in CO2 emissions and energy use, and tenants have reported corresponding reductions in fuel bills.


Partnership details In addition to the Andrews Partnership, who provide independent financial analysis of the project, and INTEGER, community participation and education were absolutely central to the project’s success:
- During the construction, local citizens were involved through meetings with the design team and by visits to the site;
- Windows were cut in the hoarding protecting the construction site, so residents could see the project take shape;
- An exhibition was held in the local library so locals could see and understand what the project set out to achieve.


Achievements The project was not without its difficulties:
- One of the key factors to the long term success of any innovative project is that it be maintained correctly, and so maintenance staff should be involved in any such project at an early stage. Maintenance staff at Sandwell felt that they inherited problems about which they were not consulted;
- Negative comments from residents have centred on maintenance issues, and staff turnover was identified as a major problem;
- Tenants have also raised issues about the need for horizontal sound insulation between floors.
Lessons Learned Some of the key project lessons include:
- The involvement of local school children, via the INTEGER education project significantly reduced on-site vandalism;
- Communal grey water recycling and heating systems eliminate the problems associated with gaining access to individual properties;
- Maintenance teams need to be involved at an early stage of development of innovative housing;
- Ensure that replacement parts and servicing are available locally;
- Solar hot water heating has proved popular with both the residents and the council: it is high yield, low cost, simple to maintain and performs well;
- Residents have found having a large number of electrical sockets useful.

To know more



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

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