Keyland Developments embarked on a research trip to the Netherlands to build their vision of being at the forefront of water-sensitive sustainable housing development in the UK.
Keyland’s development manager and planning manager were accompanied on the research trip by influential architect Jerry Tate, partner at Tate Harmer, one of the UK’s leading firm of architects on sustainability and natural environments, and Dr Adam Smith from Yorkshire Water.
Holland is renowned globally for being a leader in sustainable development and water-sensitive design.
The fact-finding mission took in visits to sustainable developments in the first CO2 neutral district in the Netherlands, three sustainable settlements near Utrecht, as well as Almere where the team met with the Chief Planner for Almere Poort - the newest city in The Netherlands.
The research trip proved extremely valuable to Keyland, revealing ways in which water can be intelligently integrated and managed within a development - ecologically, socially and economically - for the benefit of communities.
It allowed the company to see sustainable techniques and processes in practice, from solar energy solutions and district heating systems to multi-functional sustainable urban drainage systems. The research also highlighted strengths and weaknesses of different development delivery models, from more conventional volume housebuilding to self-build projects.
Luke Axe, planning manager at Keyland Developments, said: “For practical reasons, water is very much at the heart of development in the Netherlands, being such a flat country where one-third of the land sits below sea level.
“Developers are forced to innovate to ensure that water is kept running through their sites, staving off the ever-present threat of flooding.
“Unsurprisingly, therefore, it is water that is the primary feature linking buildings and the various other spaces in-between, serving as the principal conduit through which a sense of community is fostered.
“The success or otherwise of the developments visited rested not only on the sustainable technologies and processes adopted but on how they were able to generate a community spirit - and all of the social, health and economic benefits that come with it.
“Landscape in the UK (our trees, hedgerows, roads and the general topography) functions much in the same way as water does for The Netherlands.
“If lessons from the trip are to be applied, the role of landscape within developments should be seen as more than a means of satisfying planning policy, but as an opportunity to take a creative, integrated, truly smart and community-focused approach to sustainable development.”
Taking advantage of its large and diverse landholding, Keyland’s vision is to bring forward truly innovative and sustainable residential developments that are held up as being beacons of positive living and responsible development in Yorkshire and the UK.
Working with a team of industry-leading architects, sustainability specialists, engineers and cost consultants, Keyland is developing a Sustainability Framework that will underpin its approach to future development.
On the right site and in the right circumstances, this framework will drive best practice through to exceptional performance in relation to water and energy consumption, material use, embodied impact, biodiversity, health and wellbeing - amongst other target areas.
For example, Keyland is currently engaging with its sister company, Yorkshire Water, to examine how it can best utilise their unique relationship to dramatically reduce water consumption, striving to meet up to 100% of a site’s needs through captured rainwater, other closed-loop systems and recycled water.
Work is also underway to explore the ways in which Keyland’s residential developments can integrate advanced flood attenuation systems to provide a net benefit beyond its own development boundaries.
Luke Axe continued: “We are committed to being more innovative and sustainable in our approach and so, in addition to research undertaken in the UK towards the end of 2017, we decided to look further afield to our European neighbours for more inspiration.
“Each of the schemes we visited attempted to innovate and be sustainable in different ways. There were some inspiring ideas and overall the trip proved to be extremely informative.
“It’s now even clearer to me that sustainability is about more than just how buildings and places are made, it’s about how they function and the quality of life they create for residents who live there and people who pass through them.
“A development cannot be truly sustainable if it doesn’t promote community and the range of social, health and economic benefits that come with that.
“It’s our aim to create homes that use resources more efficiently, improve the quality of the built environment, create better places for people to live and work, as well as enhance and protect the environment.
“This is no easy task and is probably why there are very few developments recognised as being shining examples in the UK – which is where we aspire to be.”
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