Charity futureproofs village housing with Passivhaus homes

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Left to right: Jamie Saunders, Director, Northmores; Mark Hart, Joint Managing Director, Barnes Construction; Ian Bramwell, Senior Associate, Mole Architects; Ann Bonnett, Chair Girton Town Charity; and Matthew Ramplin, Contracts Manager, Barnes Construction

A Cambridgeshire charity is celebrating a major milestone in its latest building project to create 15 almshouses for the over 55s and a new office for its own operations.

Girton Town Charity (GTC) joined with contractor Barnes Construction, Mole Architects and Northmores Project Managers to mark a key stage in the building programme at Dovehouse Court, with the erection of timber frame panels which will provide the structure for the new energy-efficient homes.

Built to stringent Passivhaus standards, Dovehouse Court has been designed to meet the future needs of the elderly, allowing for extended independent living including easy wheelchair access. Homes have individual terraces or balconies which open onto communal landscaped gardens, an orchard and allotments.

Passivhaus is a leading international low-energy design standard which offers a robust and proven method to help UK construction achieve carbon reduction targets set out by the Government and local authorities, leading to a sustainable future for the environment locally, nationally and globally.

The timber frame panels are made from Spruce soft wood sourced from Scandinavia and manufactured in Welshpool by Lowfield Timber which specialises in Passivhaus buildings. The frames were delivered to site on lorries, for erection by crane, and once completed, an air test will be carried out to calculate the building’s air permeability.

This project, scheduled for completion in Autumn 2022, has recently been awarded a grant from The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, with the balance being funded by GTC.

The almshouses will be made available to those living in, or with a close connection to Girton.  Vacancies will be advertised locally for which residents can apply and be interviewed, with decisions made after careful consideration on the basis of a wide range of criteria.

Ann Bonnett, GTC Chair said: “As an almshouse charity, we are committed to providing homes that will meet the needs of our residents, both families and the over 55s.

“With Dovehouse Court, we are looking forward to having age-appropriate affordable almshouses that are not only practical and energy-efficient but also enjoyable places to live.

“We are delighted with the progress to date and to be able to mark the installation of the timber frames which represents an important milestone in the 61-week programme.”

Mark Hart, Joint Managing Director at Barnes Construction added: “We are pleased to be involved in this high specification project, which not only meets rigorous energy efficient design standards, but also supports the housing needs of the Girton community”. 

Almshouses are subject to different legal arrangements from private, council or housing association tenancies. Residents are ‘appointees’, not ‘tenants’, live in the house under licence and pay a maintenance contribution, not rent. As they are almshouses there is no ‘right-to-buy’ or opportunity for shared equity. With GTC almshouses, residency is limited to a maximum of three years except for those over the age of 55 or in the case of disability.