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Property of the Year
early spring
interior living space
front elevation
mezzanine bedroom
compact but spacious kitchen
clad in untreated western red cedar
on the busiest bus route in Europe
the building in use - a Carbon Literacy workshop
outdoor planters using the waste timber cladding
floor plans
the shower room
craning the main structure into position on the site

Dwelle has created a range of carefully designed micro-buildings that are highly sustainable, fast to erect and extremely adaptable. This "" can achieve zero carbon status, potentially meet Passivhaus standards and if doubled-up (which can be done at a later date), will meet Lifetime Homes Standards.

This is one of a range of micro-buildings that came about when we investigated an alternative solution to create small dwellings that could easily be adapted to suit a wide variety of uses, partly due to the high cost and limited options available in British housing. So we created a concept called “sheds for living”, which was later renamed “dwelle”.

It was paramount that the designs incorporated all of the same criteria that we had developed in our previous eco-projects. However, the key difference between the one-off bespoke projects and our “dwelle.ings”, is that we have the opportunity to continually develop and improve their design. Similar to car or product design we’ve created a building that we can produce on a large scale and intend to continually refine.

We built the prototype at the Grand Designs exhibition, which provided the perfect forum to listen to the response of visitors. We then made a number of changes to the basic design and specification.

This particular structure was constructed in Manchester Central for Greenbuild EXPO in June 2011. It was then driven 3 miles down the road on a low-loader and craned onto this new site in Rusholme.

Completed in the Spring of 2013, this building demonstrates how careful design and specification can provide a number of benefits in modern zero-carbon living. It is also a Centre for Carbon Literacy, an educational resource that contributes to Manchester’s aim to cut its emissions by 41% by 2020 by engaging all people in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low-carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city.

The compact nature of a “” means it treads lightly upon the environment. It can achieve good levels of sustainability in a number of areas, both in construction and in operation.

The home can achieve all mandatory requirements for Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes for materials, waste, water and energy. Although the main building fabric and specification is fixed to ensure the building can be as environmentally sustainable as possible, the purchase options include a variety of renewable energy systems to make it zero carbon. The exact specification of the renewable systems will depend on the number of homes and location of development. For example district CHP may be more appropriate for larger projects.

We have also carried out a Lifecycle Assessment of the impact of the building materials within the timber frame structure, the building heating and ventilation systems and the in-use energy consumption over 60 years. The timber in the building locks up carbon over it’s life time. The building has been designed so that the materials used are minimal, and those included can be reused or recycled at the end of the building life.

We want to ensure the living environment is a healthy environment. Our heating and ventilation systems and the materials and finishes throughout the house promote healthy living. We’ve researched finishes and treatments and determined whether there are any VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) or other substances that can off-gas into the living spaces.

Where possible we’ve only specified internal finishes that meet the Allergy UK’s Seal of Approval, that assess products which restrict, reduce or remove allergens from the environment of the allergy sufferer.

The design includes the integration of a KNX system that will provide full home and building control, ranging from lighting and shutter control to security systems, heating, ventilation, alarming, water control, energy management as well as appliances and audio systems. Control is through a wall mounted interface, iPad or smart phone. In addition to providing maximum convenience, the ultimate aim of such a system is to reduce energy consumption.

Intelligence can also be found in many of the passive elements of the house. We have incorporated a PCM board (Phase Change Material). In light-weight buildings, temperature fluctuations are much higher and are typically offset by the use of air conditioning or heating systems which may result not only in higher operational costs but also higher CO2 emissions. This board simulates thermal mass which helps to provide comfortable room temperatures and minimise temperature peaks.

The internal membrane is also very advanced. Intello Plus Intelligent Airtight vapour control membrane and tapes and seals create an airtight seal, ensuring that the insulation functions to its optimum performance, saving energy and drastically reducing carbon emissions for the lifetime of the building.

The main living space has extremely large windows providing great views and allowing plenty of natural light into the building. Rooflights also maximise daylight into the building, whilst ensuring privacy. The result is a bright and spacious home. The design promotes the idea of a “lifestyle home” where people generally want more living space. Although the overall building is compact, the size of each space is generous and provides a very practical and efficient layout.

Adequate storage space is a high priority for most home owners. The offers more than sufficient concealed storage space including a cloakroom, full-sized hanging wardrobes, plenty of kitchen cupboards, a recessed shower room cabinet and high level storage in the living space.

The quality of the public realm is as important as the quality of the homes and buildings that make up a community. The importance of the provision of well-designed and well-maintained public spaces as an intrinsic part of creating decent homes. This demonstration home sits comfortably next to a couple of social housing tower blocks with a large allotment area that includes fruit trees, a living wall, outdoor gym equipment, bike sheds and a community room.