Swansea is to get its first ‘living building’, located on the former Woolworths site in the city centre.
Living buildings are designed to function like living organisms, incorporating elements such energy and water self-sufficiency, easy access to fresh air and daylight, sustainable materials and aesthetic appeal.
The concept stems from the Living Building Challenge, launched by the non-profit International Living Future Institute in 2006. It’s a certification programme that promotes sustainability in the built environment. The living building concept is expressed through the symbol of a seven-petalled flower, with each petal representing a different performance area. These are: materials, place, water, energy, health and happiness, equity, and beauty.
To gain certification, a building needs to have been in operation for a year, allowing its real performance to be evaluated.
Swansea’s new living building is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. It’s being built by Swansea-based Hacer Developments and will be one of the first buildings of its kind in the UK.
Made up of the former Woolworths unit and a new adjoining 13-storey structure, the building will include green walls and green roofs, an educational facility, retail, offices, a landscaped courtyard, rooftop solar panels, battery storage and gardens.
Other features will include an urban farm-style greenhouse set over four floors. Plants and vegetables will be grown in water and fed by waste pumped from fish tanks at the bottom of the building. A green walkway including seating through the building will link Oxford Street to a new public space leading to the 71/72 Kingsway scheme being developed by Swansea Council.
Housing association Pobl Group will manage 50 affordable apartments forming part of the scheme. Pobl will also run the new 33-apartment building at the city’s Copr Bay district developed by Swansea Council, which is due to be completed this summer. The affordable apartments will cater for local people working in the city centre, with a particular focus on key workers.
Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said: “Led by Hacer Developments, the exciting ‘living building’ scheme follows on from our work to transform the look and feel of The Kingsway.
“It will create jobs for local people while helping Swansea in its drive to become a net zero city, complementing the nearby office development at the former Oceana nightclub site that will be carbon zero in operation.
“The residential element of the scheme will also meet the city’s accommodation needs by creating more affordable living opportunities in the city centre. This is also the case for the apartment building at the Copr Bay district developed by the council, which will benefit from excellent links with the new coastal park adjacent to Swansea Arena.”
Carwyn Davies, Managing Director of Hacer Developments, said:
“We’re delighted that main construction work will soon start on the highly innovative ‘living building’ project, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support of the many partners involved, including Swansea Council, the Welsh Government, Pobl, the Development Bank of Wales, Swansea University and Cardiff University – as well as our fantastic design and site team.”
Claire Tristham, Director of Developments at Pobl Group, said:
“Pobl has a growing reputation for delivering forward-thinking housing solutions that push the boundaries.
“We are excited to be working with Hacer on this innovative project that will deliver much-needed, high-quality, affordable homes for Swansea and support the council’s wider regeneration plans for the city centre.
“Support from the council and Welsh Government has been critically important to this development, so we were delighted to able to welcome the Minister on site to officially launch the start of work on this truly unique project.”
The ‘living building’ is being funded by a mixture of private sector funding and funding from the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme, Pobl and the Development Bank of Wales.
Set to accommodate 600 workers, the nearby office development at the former Oceana nightclub site – due for completion in the summer of 2023 – is being funded by Swansea Council and the Swansea Bay City Deal. It is also being supported by the European Regional Development Site through the Welsh Government.
The Copr Bay phase one district has been developed by Swansea Council, supported by development managers Rivington Hark. Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd is leading on its construction.
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