A sustainable social housing project in Norwich, England, has become the first social housing project to win the Stirling Prize architecture award.

Designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, Goldsmith Street consists of almost 100 ultra-low-energy terraced homes.

According to the architects, the housing has been designed to the highest Passivhaus standards, with very little energy required for temperature regulation.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has estimated that annual energy costs will be 70 percent lower than that of the average household.

Design features

The architects needed to come up with some unique solutions to achieve Passivhaus standards while still respecting the Victorian style of the buildings in nearby streets.

For example, in an effort to adhere to Victorian window proportions, they developed a recessed feature that gave the impression of a larger opening with limited glass. And to adhere to the strict Passivhaus standards, letterboxes were built externally to prevent any drafts entering the buildings.

The development has generous public space; over a quarter of the space is communal and parking has been placed on the outskirts to ensure the development remains pedestrian-friendly.

Judges’ comments

“Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece,” says the judging panel, chaired by Julia Barfield.

“It is high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form.

“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.”

Image credit: RIBA