Far from the conventional housing development, Little Kelham stands out from the crowd

A pioneering low-carbon housing development in Sheffield has used Marley Eternit’s fibre cement slates, cladding and profiled sheeting to create a striking, long-lasting aesthetic that is challenging the conventions of urban design.

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ne of three low-energy housing projects by sustainable developer CITU Developments, Little Kelham is set on the site of the former Richardson’s cutlery factory in the Kelham Island area of Sheffield. In addition to 153 energy-efficient homes, where residents can expect their energy bills and carbon emissions to be a fraction of a conventional property, the development also includes community spaces, shops and a bakery, designed to offer an inspiring and thriving place to live.

Far from a conventional housing project, Little Kelham incorporates the challenges and rewards of developing on a historic brownfield site with 21st century house-building and placemaking, all the time focusing on creating homes and neighbourhoods which are kinder to the environment and help combat climate change. The development is designed to provide an oasis free from kerbs, white lines, street clutter and unnecessary signage, created to intuitively slow vehicles and create interesting spaces for people to meet, sit, ponder and pass through.

Central to Little Kelham’s design is the site’s industrial heritage, to reflect this character, CITU Developments specified a combination of sustainable fibre cement materials for 100 of the apartments and town houses. The materials selected were Marley Eternit’s P3 Profiled Sheeting, Thrutone slates and EQUITONE cladding, which have been used to create aesthetic interest and contrast between grey tiles and black corrugated sheets on the facades. It was important that the site stayed true to its industrial past, so the developer has embraced the best elements of this influence while breathing new life into the area through the development’s design – ensuring it is relevant to new generations.

Alongside achieving the right aesthetic to nod to its industrial heritage, sustainability is also central to the development, as Ben Neary, from CITU Developments, explains: “Sustainability is the absolute focus for Little Kelham. It’s currently widely estimated that buildings and homes are responsible for about a third of CO2 emissions, so a key driver for the project was the ways we could play our part in reducing this. Homes at Little Kelham help to reduce the impact on the environment and reduce heating bills.

“We chose to use a combination of three different fibre cement cladding products for the third phase of this development because we wanted to harness their sustainability benefits while creating a distinctive urban aesthetic that hasn’t been done before. We were also working within the constraints of the site and the highly industrialised surrounding area – we needed to reflect the heritage, yet build with a low-carbon philosophy, with energy efficiency and design at the core.

“We chose fibre cement profiled sheeting, EQUITONE and Thrutone from Marley Eternit because the materials supported our sustainability objectives, and gave us the distinctive semi-industrial yet contemporary urban aesthetic we wanted to achieve while at the same time being low maintenance and very durable. We also wanted to maximise the use of off-site construction processes and, as a lightweight material, fibre cement is ideal for this type of installation method.”

Speed of construction was an important consideration for the project developers. The modular design of the houses involved huge, pre-made panels which form the walls and skeleton of the properties, being lowered into place with a crane before being fitted into position. This way of building is not only more accurate than a conventional on-site build, but it is also much faster and time efficient, as rooms can be created in hours and whole floors constructed in a day. Marley Eternit’s fibre cement slates are ideal for modular building or off-site construction because they only weigh around 20.4kg/m², which is less than half the weight of its thin leading edge concrete tile. They can also be installed much more quickly than natural slate, whether on site or in a factory as part of modular construction.

Returning to the objective

While the weight of the cladding and roof covering was important, returning to the central objective of sustainability meant the sustainable credentials of the materials used was a driving factor. Fibre cement slate is 100% recyclable, which makes it an increasingly popular choice for developments like Little Kelham with strong environmental objectives. Charlotte Hughes, Campaign Manager from Marley Eternit, explains: “Not only are our fibre cement slates a very sustainable product in life, they can be fully recycled at the end of life. Fibre cement products can be ground down and used to replace limestone and shale in clinker production, essential ingredients for Portland cement, thereby re-entering the construction supply chain and closing the loop. The excellent sustainability credentials of our range of fibre cement slates and profiled sheeting is demonstrated through its ‘Very Good’ BES 6001 responsible sourcing accreditation and the ability to achieve an A+ rating in the BRE Green Guide. For projects such as Little Kelham where the sustainability of the properties is key, fibre cement is an ideal solution.”

Ben Neary comments on how the specification of these sustainable building materials has provided numerous benefits for residents at Little Kelham. He says: “Through the specification of sustainable building products from cladding, profiled sheeting, right through to triple-glazed windows, our houses provide a comfortable indoor climate at any time of year without relying on conventional heating. We’ve also used the latest digital technology to allow homeowners to digitally control their home’s energy use from their desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. This ensures homeowners only use the energy and resources they need.

“All in all, the combination of the most sustainable building materials and applications, alongside the latest digital technology, means residents can enjoy significantly cheaper heating bills, healthier air and a smarter way to consume resources. We believe this is the future of sustainable living.”

Charlotte Hughes adds: “In addition to the lightweight and sustainability credentials of our fibre cement slates, cladding and profiled sheeting, the versatility and multitude of textures and colours available across the ranges can help architects create aesthetic interest and contrast, helping to reimagine urban design, just like at Little Kelham.”

Ben Neary concludes: “Little Kelham demonstrates a successful balance between achieving cutting-edge urban design, speed of construction and, crucially, a sustainable development which will provide comfortable and low-carbon buildings for the long-term enjoyment of the whole community.”

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