Greswolde Construction

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UK building revolution

A £3m development on a historic site in a Moseley conservation area will showcase ultra-modern energy-saving living for the future.

The four houses and 22 apartments being built in the grounds of a listed building, feature sustainable, low embodied energy products that will slash running costs and environmental impact.

Sympathetically designed so that they complement the 1930’s Grade II mansion, the new Kingerlee Homes will achieve an airtightness of 2, compared to the current building regulations requirement for 10.

The desirable residences will reach energy efficiency levels undreamt of when Birmingham architect Holland W Hobbis’ grand neo-Georgian building was constructed.

The Pitmaston project prompted new ways of designing and building for Greswolde Construction and architects Daniel Hurd Associates.

The Greswolde team has taught its bricklayers the techniques to use the high performance NBT ThermoPlan blocks.

“We’re also using a different system for the roofs.  Everyone is seizing the opportunity of being at the forefront of something of a UK building revolution,” says Contracts Manager Jason Taplin.

Architect, and Daniel Hurd Associates Partner, Ian Allerston RIBA has relished the experience too.

“You have to throw traditional ideas out of the window,” he says.

“It has been very interesting finding out ways to make the most of the products and good to be at the sharp end of cutting edge development.”

Greswolde’s Jason and Site Manager Ray Hewson were flown out to Germany by developers Kingerlee Homes to see the blocks being made and used in construction.

Kingerlee has been using the blocks, and other products imported by the Natural Building Technologies (NBT) company it also owns, for some time.  But Pitmaston, says Managing Director Tony Woodward, is the largest development to date.

The blocks (as pictured) combine fast build times with excellent levels of thermal and acoustic insulation and overheating control, within a breathable fabric.  Plaster is added on the inside, and render on the outside.

Other NBT products being used include Pavaclad and Diffutherm woodfibre insulation.

“the materials are not new – 85% of residential construction in Germany is built in exactly the same way we are building at Pitmaston,” says Tony.

“in this country we have been besotted by the cavity wall, which is inefficient because of the materials and the complexity, and therefore opportunity for failings.  Our system is very simple, and thereby more efficient.”

Each product also gets the energy saving tick before it arrives on site.

“Many of the products being used in this country have very high embodied energy – the energy required to manufacture it,” Tony explains.

“The most common form of insulation is mineral wool, and by the time that arrives on site, it has already eaten up more energy than it will ever save in its use.”

Tony and architect Ian have praised Greswolde’s Site Management Ray Hewson and Steve Harrison for their work so far, which has included ensuring everyone who comes on site understands, and takes responsibility for, airtightness in every facet of work.

“We are very pleased with how Greswolde’s site team has bought in to the systems we are using.” Says Tony.

Greswolde MD Malcolm Priest, whose team is also undertaking LABC training aimed at cutting the performance gap between on-paper projections and actual delivery, is also pleased with the progress.

“The sloping site has presented some challenges, but it’s a beautiful setting which will give the residents some wonderful views from the higher levels,” he says.

“Certainly they will be getting remarkable new homes, built from materials that will, I’m sure, be more widely used as the UK fully embraces zero carbon housing.”


The contemporary and the historic will sit beautifully side by side when Greswolde completes work on the Pitmaston homes.

“We have aimed to complement the old, while celebrating the exciting new,” says Architect Ian Allerston RIBA, who worked closely with the conservation officer during the design stage.

“The windows in the apartment block next to the listed building are designed with a sympathetic rhythm of fenestration and proportions to its neighbour, without aping them.”

The development is on land that was originally landscaped in 1870 for the Holder family.

The project includes the conversion of the listed former stable block and engine house.  Ian has echoed its history by leaving some of the glazed Victorian bricks on show in the lobby.

Kingerlee will ensure their homes live up to their Energy Performance Certificate claims, by closely monitoring the performance of a selection of households for up to 18 months.