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Fuel poverty-tackling social housing scoops top UK architecture prize

Goldsmith Street in Norwich has become the first council house project to win RIBA’s Stirling Prize for the UK’s best new building. Judges say they should become “the norm for all council housing”

The eco-friendly sustainable social housing on Goldsmith Street in Norwich has won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ coveted Stirling Prize – a first for council housing.

Last week we told you that the Norwich City Council-led project was up for the gong after judges were impressed by the smart innovations that boosted sustainability and slashed energy bills.

But the 93 two-storey homes and three-storey flats were honoured at last night’s RIBA Awards ceremony as they were hailed for showing what should “be the norm for all council housing”.

“Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece,” said the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, chaired by Julia Barfield. “It is high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form. Behind restrained creamy façades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale.

“This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing.”


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Properties on the street have been built to meet rigorous Passivhaus standards – which provide a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling – which was judged to be “remarkable” for a dense, mass housing development.

The commitment to tackling fuel poverty means that fuel bills are minimised for residents through small details like removing letterboxes to reduce draughts and placing them on the walls of external porches. The result sees residents paying 70 per cent less on their energy bills than the average household.

The £17 million project is courtesy of architect Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley with the backing of Norwich City Council.

“This is an incredibly proud moment for Norwich, our strong history of building social housing and our ambitions to raise environmental standards,” said Councillor Gail Harris, the local authority’s cabinet member for social housing.

“Winning this prestigious award shows that it is possible to build fantastic new council homes, despite the challenges posed by central government cuts and restrictions around Right to Buy receipts.

“We are incredibly grateful to Mikhail Riches for sharing our vision for these homes, and helping us to create a sustainable community for our residents.”

Images: RIBA/Tim Crocker