Sustainable development in a broader sense in Thamesmead

Demo Leader:  Chiel Boonstra at Trecodome,  

The creation of added value for the tenants is a vital key aim of the E2ReBuild project. In Thamesmead, in the southeast of London, where construction of the E2ReBuild demonstration building is just about to start, added social value is a major objective for the owners – Gallions Housing Association.
Thamesmead in South East London was built from scratch from the end of the 1960s by the Greater London Council. The aim was to tackle the housing crisis by creating a utopian new town to which people from the over populated inner city slums could move to live and work and come together without the pollution and problems of city life. As in so many cases around Europe, this was a idealized concept of community that was bound to fail.

A vicious anti-social spiral
The entire area was located on marshlands and was built very quickly with the modernist ideas of the time using industrialized methods to reduce cost. The construction method is of concrete panels systems containing almost no insulation, the buildings have huge problems with heat loss and condensation due to cold bridging.

Today the area is characterized by poor quality housing, poverty and social deprivation. A large proportion of the residents is dependent on social welfare and the area is defined by a massive lack of social facilities, for example there is only one shop to cater for 8,000 inhabitants. A combination of low income; low car ownership and no social facilities has over the years created a vicious spiral of isolation and desolation. Anti-social behavior rates are high and the unsecure environment has led to low usage of the public realm; streets and public areas.

Renovation for change 

This is about to change! The retrofit program by the owners Gallions Housing Association seeks to tackle the technical and construction issues of the poor quality and energy inefficiency of the housing stock and at the same time create a vibrant living space for the inhabitants to interact in and be proud of.

The E2ReBuild demonstration building is the pilot scheme in a large scale renovation and regeneration of the Thamesmead area. The construction will start in July and the first apartment is planned to be finished in October 2013.  

Cutting the heating bill by up to 80%
The E2ReBuild demonstration building, a five-storey maisonette structure containing 18 apartments, will be massively improved.

Prefabricated, highly insulated façade and roof timber elements will be used and due to its greater thermal performance, the energy space heating demand will reduce by up to 80%. This will create a great added value for the tenants, who in many cases, spend over 10% of their income on space heating.

The use of triple glazing and mechanical heat recovery ventilation will guarantee a comfortable and healthy indoor climate. The external envelope will be manufactured off-site, which reduce the construction time and allows the tenants to stay in their apartments during the renovation.

In addition the incorporation of the external walkways into the building envelope will create more living space and nine of the eighteen apartments will get an extra room after the renovation. There will also be new kitchens, boilers and bathrooms installed.
The exterior of the building will be correspondingly upgraded with added practical and aesthetic value for the tenants. The modern exterior will help give the tenants a sense of pride in their building. The closing of the walkways and a new staircase will in addition add to making the building more secure. 

Areas for social interaction
Today the ground floor/street level of the buildings is used as storage facilities, originally designed as garages. After the retrofit this space will be used for a complimentary mix of small businesses and social interaction areas such as community spaces. In collaboration with local schools an apprentice program will be developed where local teenagers will have opportunity to train and achieve professional skills in the small businesses, such as beauty salons etc. The aim of Gallions is that currently deserted public areas of Thamesmead will be used by the inhabitants morning, day and night to create a social, interactive and safe outdoor environment.

Gallions are also planning to further improve the street area by planting trees and putting in street furniture with the aim of creating areas for the residents and visitors to meet and interact.

The retrofit project has no government funding. All investment is being made by Gallions Housing Association with support from E2Rebuild.

By Annelie Karlsson, SP from interview with Daniel Hill, Gallions Housing Association


Thamesmead demo before retrofit
Photo: Stephan Ott

Thamesmead demo after retrofit