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Norwich council homes are bookmakers' favourite to be named UK's best building

PUBLISHED: 16:35 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 08 October 2019

Goldsmith Street in Norwich, which is the bookmakers' favourite to win the RIBA Stirling Prize. Pic: Archant

Goldsmith Street in Norwich, which is the bookmakers' favourite to win the RIBA Stirling Prize. Pic: Archant

Archant

A development of more than 100 new council houses in Norwich could be named the best new building in the country.

Goldsmith Street. Pic: ArchantGoldsmith Street. Pic: Archant

The Norwich City Council-built homes in Goldsmith Street are on the six-strong shortlist for the coveted 2019 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony in London tonight - screened live on the BBC News Channel - and bookmakers William Hill believed the £17m Norwich scheme will scoop the prize.

The homes - a mix of 45 one-bedroom flats, 40 two-bedroom houses, three two-bedroom flats and five four-bedroom flats - are owned and managed by City Hall and rented out to people with a housing need.

They were built by RG Carter and designed by architects Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley.

Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.

William Hill had the Goldsmith Street development as the 5/4 favourite to win the Stirling Prize, ahead of 5/2 second favourite London Bridge Station.

"Social housing is a hot topic and over half the bets in the book are for Goldsmith Street," said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.

"It looks a very strong contender and we would be surprised if it did not win."

The prize is judged against a range of criteria including design vision; innovation and originality; capacity to stimulate, engage and delight occupants and visitors; accessibility and sustainability; how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.

Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.

The homes have been built to eco-friendly Passivhaus standards, ultra-low energy buildings which need very little fuel for heating or cooling.

Timber framed homes have insulation pumped into a airtight membrane, to prevent heat loss, with triple-glazed windows.

The homes are also kitted out with a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system.

That is essentially a duct which comes into the building, with a fan blowing fresh air in and another duct with a fan blowing stale air out.

Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.

A heat exchanger takes the heat from warm air, produced by the likes of washing machines, televisions and body heat.

It then transfers that heat to cold air, so that all rooms are a comfortable temperature.

Each property also has a radiator, just in case a boost is needed.

They have previously scooped award from RIBA East and a RIBA sustainability award.

Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.

And readers of the Architects' Journal who voted in an online poll said they believed Goldsmith Street should take the prize.

The project garnered almost a third of the 1,000 votes in the online poll.

In addition to the London Bridge Station, other rivals are a house built of cork in Eton, The Weston at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Nevill Holt Opera in Leicestershire and The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience in Speyside, Scotland.

Previous winners of the prize include the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh and Hastings Pier.

A controversial history

The site made national headlines in 2008 after it emerged that, contrary to city council policy, council staff had moved into sheltered housing on the site after elderly people who lived there moved out.

The pensioners who lived in Goldsmith Street and Greyhound Opening were being re-homed to make way for new houses.

While the council had agreed officers relocating to Norwich could go into the homes, so elderly people who had yet to move out would not feel isolated, it was against policy for other staff to move in.

It sparked a scandal at City Hall, with calls for an independent inquiry, and led to the sacking of the council's head of neighbourhood and strategic housing, who was among those who moved into the properties.

The homes were demolished in 2009, with construction work on the new homes starting in 2017.

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