Unity Gardens, Long Sutton

It’s a different Eco Way of Life!

UNITY GARDENS Completed in 2009

Bridge Road, Long Sutton, nr Spalding, Lincolnshire.

The Long Sutton Earth-Sheltered Social Housing Scheme is a prototype project to inform the housing industry of independent environmentally friendly living.

The single storey earth-bunded homes are designed to achieve a greater level of self reliance over resources than conventional housing developments. Unity Gardens places the organisations involved in the project at the forefront of those striving to mitigate carbon emissions in a fast developing low-carbon economy.

The development consists of three 2 bedroom and three 3 bedroom homes situated in 2 acres of lush landscaped gardens and allotments.

Lincs Rural Housing Association have constructed for the first time, near autonomous homes which can achieve zero heating status, vastly reduce CO2 emissions and generate a net surplus of electricity on an annual basis from renewable sources. These super insulated environmentally friendly properties harvest rainwater to reduce water use and have gardens and allotments for residents to grow their own food. Small livestock may also be kept by some of the residents.

Unity Garden’s Features:

  • Substantially increased levels of insulation using earth and environmentally friendly products;
  • Photovoltaic cell and solar roof panel renewable energy technology;
  • Rainwater harvesting;
  • Back-up under floor space heating;
  • Passive cross and stack ventilation;
  • A vertical axis 12 metre high wind turbine;
  • Increased biodiversity with hedgerows, trees, and a pond;
  • A ‘living street’ where traffic is calmed on a porous non tarmac road;
  • Pleasant living environments in contact with nature with natural ventilation, elevated internal daylight levels and maximum sunlight;
  • Allotments provided to each tenant; and
  • Proximity to a well-served bus route and footpath giving easy access to the town centre and local services.

Design Principles

The design solution for Unity Gardens has been achieved by adopting the principles of passive solar design:

  • Orientation – south to maximise receipts of solar gains;Unity Gardens
  • Fenestration – maximising areas of glazing on the south optimises solar gain;
  • High thermal mass – internally exposed high-mass structural elements stabilises ambient air temperature by acting as heat-sinks;
  • Super-insulation – a continuous envelope of 300mm thick insulation in conjunction with the earth bunding creates elemental u-values significantly better than Building Regulation requirements;
  • Passive ventilation – passive stack vents in the kitchens, toilets, and bathrooms aid cooling;
  • Passive heating – a combination of passive solar heat gains, human occupation, and secondary heat from household appliances provides most, if not all, of the heat;
  • Back-up heating – a thermostatically automated low-grade electric under floor heating system is embedded in the concrete floor slab;
  • Solar water heating – flat-plate solar water heating collectors reduce domestic hot water costs and the demand for electricity from the grid;
  • Rainwater harvested – rain from the roofs is stored in water tank for use in the home;
  • Microclimates – the positioning of the building around the south facing gardens provides shelter from north winds; and
  • A ‘Living-street’[i] – provides pedestrian and vehicle compatibility.  More than adequate vehicle spaces eliminate on-street parking with road pinch points slowing traffic, freeing the street up for recreational and pedestrian use.

“This is really impressive.  I’ve never seen anything quite on this scale.  I wish we could bottle it up and market it elsewhere in the country.” Most Revd  Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury on visiting the new homes at Unity Gardens.

Claire Lovette a Unity Gardens resident said ”It’s a healthier way of life here and the kids really like veg now – growing their own gets them interested. These houses save water as well as energy – rainwater from the roof goes into an underground tank and is used for everything except drinking water, and any surplus goes into the pond for watering.”


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