City Living Goes Green

Where can you find an energy efficient, city centre home? Flat Living takes a look at the Green Building to find out what Manchester has to offer.

Anyone living in Manchester who is looking for a centrally located flat with city views and low energy costs is likely to consider the Green Building as an option. This recently completed, environmentallyconscious, mixed-use complex boasts 32 apartments on the top eight storeys, as well as a 120-place pre-school nursery run by Kids Unlimited, a doctor's surgery and a range of other commercial space. A two-bedroom apartment in the block will set you back around £190,000. The Green Building is popular and flats sell fast. A typical apartment comprises an entrance hall, open plan living/kitchen area with balcony, two good size double bedrooms and a Jack and Jill shower room. Some apartments have a designated parking space. Typical rental returns are around £950-£1000 per month which is fairly typical for this part of the city.

The building is part of a larger development by Taylor Woodrow known as Macintosh Village, which occupies the area of the city that was originally home to Manchester's Dunlop tyre factory and the birthplace of the Macintosh raincoat. The circular structure of the Green Building is built on a triangular site, close to the River Medlock and with easy transport links into Manchester city centre. According to one local estate agent, Macintosh village “is an extremely popular development, with some on-site parking in a fantastic location close to Oxford Road station, the universities and the Palace Theatre”.

The Green Building was designed by leading architects Terry Farrell Associates which won a Sustainable Civic Trust Award for its environmentally friendly features. The cylindrical shape of the tower is designed to reduce the surface area of the building in relation to the heat generated by building use. This increases thermal efficiency and the addition of a high level of renewable insulation means the building naturally retains heat, keeping CO2 emissions – and heating bills – low. Large full height triple glazed windows in the south-facing apartments maximise solar gain, while the north facing apartments have relatively small windows. To keep the flats at an ambient temperature and reduce the risk of overheating, the building is constructed around an internal central atrium that provides passive air conditioning to all apartments in the block. Warm air from each home passes into the central atrium and rises, drawing fresh cooler air into the apartments. Computer controlled windows at the top of the atrium regulate air-flow.

There is solar-powered hot water for domestic plumbing and underfloor heating and heat exchanger panels generate electricity.The building uses cost-effective communal underfloor heating in all apartments and the same system provides the hot water. The electrical supply to the apartments is supplemented by a wind power turbine. Residents in the building and the communal boilers use this power first and any excess is fed back into the national grid. To keep water use in the building to a minimum, all apartments have showers not baths in the bathrooms and the taps are designed to use the minimum amount of water necessary to wash hands safely.

As well as living in apartments that are designed to be as energy efficient as possible, flat owners at the Green Building are encouraged to adopt a sustainable lifestyle themselves. There are integrated recycling facilities for glass, paper and aluminium in all the flats and a communal composting bin is currently being proposed by the residents association. As the building is located next to a train station, the architects have also provided bike storage on-site to encourage residents to use public transport.

Since September 2013, the flats at the Green Building have been managed by a team from Revolution Property Management, which took on the role when the resident management company underwent a change of directors. The management company covers Macintosh Village as a whole, which includes The Foundry with 62 apartments, River Street Apartments and River Street Town Houses as well as The Green Building. Revolution's Ian Hollins is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Green Building, supported by facilities administrator Peter Duerden and Darren Churchill who manages the financial aspects for the development. The Green Building also has a full time caretaker Stephen Murray.

The biggest issue faced by the property managers in terms of the energy efficient nature of the building, is managing the communal heating and hot water systems and having contingency procedures to deal with any potential failures so that inconvenience to residents is minimised. However, Ian explains that Revolution also manages other blocks with communal heating so these procedures are well defined and tested. The only other unusual aspect of managing the Green Building to-date has been learning the ins and outs of the equipment and partnering with specialists to maintain it effectively. For the residents, there are clear benefits to be gained from living in such an energy efficient block. With the service charge currently set at £121.19 per year which includes all heating, hot water and ground rent of £250 per annum, costs are kept very low.

One resident, Paul Cullen, who has lived in the block with his wife for seven years and is an RMC director, was actively attracted to the Green Building because of its environmentally friendly credentials. He admits that the communal heating system has had its problems in the past but these have now been dealt with and the building now runs smoothly. Bills are low, the passive heating and cooling system works well and Paul explains his flat is always a comfortable temperature even when it's cold outside. The building was very much a flagship project for the developers and according to Paul there is a good mix of tenants and permanent residents, with homes never staying on the market for long. “The Green Building is a popular development in a great location and the environmental benefits speak for themselves,” he says.