Eco-friendly architecture enters the new decade with a retro theme - an emphasis on self-sufficiency, reminiscent of the 1950s when post-war austerity and scarce resources triggered renewed interest in allotments and energy-saving technology.
Architects who cut their teeth in the age of concrete are today talking about “edible walls” and “sky vegetables”. Green roofs with gardens for food production and which encourage flora and fauna are making an appearance, as are apartments with winter gardens that can be used as giant window boxes for home-grown produce year-round.
Ivy Waterside is an address that conjures up a vision of bucolic bliss. In fact, it is a scheme of 24 “metro” apartments being built alongside a run-down section of the Regent’s Canal in Hackney.
While the steel facade reflects the location’s industrial legacy, to the rear of the development, overlooking the canal, is a much softer “planted wall”, constructed according to the recommendations of ecologist Jacqueline Fisher.
Rough-hewn, stone “gabion” walls, normally used by civil engineers to stabilise shorelines and embankments in the countryside, have an outside layer of ivy, clematis and honeysuckle, while nesting boxes are incorporated to attract bird species such as swifts, martins and song thrushes and to allow new eco-systems to form. Over time, vegetation permeates voids between the natural stone wall and reinforces the structure.
Solar-heating and rainwater recycling boost the scheme’s green credentials. Apartments feature floor-to-ceiling glass and most have decked balconies. Prices are from £265,000. Call estate agent Thomson Currie on 020 7354 5224.
Orsman Road, the development’s postal address, is an area in transition. Former warehouses and depots are being redeveloped into apartments, waterside restaurants and loft offices for creative companies. The neighbourhood borders Hoxton and the fashionable Islington canalfront, towards Angel. Haggerston station, a new point on the extended East London line opening later this year, is a five-minute walk away.
Indigo, at nearby Kingsland Basin, is also targeting green-fingered homebuyers. Flats have enclosed conservatory-style spaces that are suitable for growing plants and vegetables.
“More and more Londoners want to grow their own food, as the long waiting list for city allotments shows, but usually it is not possible in flats,” says Tariq Qureshi of developer A2Dominion. The communal rooftop terrace has impressive City views and flats also overlook the canal basin, with its community of houseboats. Prices start at £270,000. Call 0800 783 2159.
Regent’s Canal runs through the mega King’s Cross regeneration site, a 67-acre complex where 1,946 new homes are being built, part of a new business district. The first residential building is underway and will have roof-top allotments and its own power generation plant. Flats, including shared ownership units, will be sold before completion in 2012. To register, visit www.onehousinggroup.co.uk.
Sonia Abbondanza and Asif Hussein, a doctor, have signed up for one of the rooftop allotments at One Brighton, a “carbon neutral” development in the south coast city. The couple commute to London for work but prefer to live by the sea because of the healthier lifestyle.
“We wanted to live somewhere that was genuinely green,” says Sonia, 32, who works for Eurostar at St Pancras. Flats boast biomass boilers and low-energy appliances powered from renewable sources.
As well as rooftop allotments and balcony planters, flats have advanced recycling facilities allowing organic waste to be transferred to a communal composter onsite.
Prices at the 172-apartment scheme start at £183,500. Call 0870 752 1820.