A sheltered housing development that reaches level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes has received the London Planning Awards prize for the best new place to live in London.
Ewart House is a Harrow Churches Housing Association (HCHA) extra-care scheme that was developed to provide sustainable housing for the elderly, including those with mild dementia.

Greenbuild News visited the Harrow scheme just before it was completed in November 2010, and was told by Christopher Holley, chief executive of HCHA, that the aim was to ‘put older people at the cutting edge of green living’. And Ewart House, designed by architect JCMT, has certainly achieved this, including many features and technologies that are not usually specified for sheltered housing schemes, such as super-fast broadband and renewable energy.

The scheme attained level four of the Code with the help of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system, solar PV and solar thermal, which also helps generate income and keep bills low for residents through the Feed-in Tariff. “We aimed for level four as we really wanted to look at both fuel poverty and sustainability,” says Holley.

Ewart House was HCHA’s first green project and it did a lot of homework to ensure every aspect of it was right, visiting the BRE’s Innovation Park and talking to numerous experts. The award shows that the work has paid off – and the tenants are happy too. “It’s really beautiful,” says resident Eileen King. “I wanted to move in right away. When I heard about all the care and support available to me I thought it was too good to be true. Since I broke my hip last year I haven’t been able to wash properly or stand at the cooker for too long. Now I have help from staff to do everything I need.”

The cost to residents has been kept to a minimum, with weekly rent and service charges set at £135. Ewart House has 47 one and two-bedroom flats for older people, most with a private balcony, and care and support is available from on-site staff 24 hours a day.

But HCHA has warned that it now faces serious challenges trying to repeat its winning formula due to the government’s recent spending review. Christopher Holley explains: “We’re extremely worried that funding will not be available for more schemes like this despite the substantial social and financial advantages it offers over alternatives like residential and nursing care. It is already very clear to all who visit the scheme how it fosters revived ability and independence in frail older people.”

A £6.3m grant from the Homes and Communities Agency helped pay the build costs and Harrow Council foots the bill for employing two teams of staff providing personal care and support. Housing support staff are employed by HCHA while round the clock care is provided on-call by Creative Support, a national specialist support agency.

To find out more about the project, visit www.hcha.eu.