WHEN property developer Mike Webb found a large Victorian house overlooking Seaton beach, Devon, in 2015 he knew he’d found a golden opportunity. The old house, with a bungalow at the back, had glorious views across the ocean and lush rural landscape. But it was the site that captured Mike — and the chance it presented to create something new and unique.
Mike had spent seven years working in renewable energy and retrained as a certified consultant for the German Passivhaus Institute, which applies a rigorous standard for energy efficiency to reduce buildings’ ecological footprint.
‘I sensed the architectural winds of change,’ Mike says. ‘And I wanted to be part of that — to create something environmentally friendly and unique. And this was the perfect site to do it.’
Mike and his wife Audrey went on to set up Seaton Beach Developments with friends and partners. Today his vision has been rewarded.
Seaton Beach, his innovative and award-winning, five-storey seafront development of eight luxury apartments has won Best Sustainable Residential Development in the UK at the International Property Awards and is the UK’s first multi-block development to be certified Passivhaus Plus.
Only three apartments remain unsold, including the three-bedroom, three-bathroom penthouse, which is a timber frame construction and clad in zinc shingles to give it a 30-year maintenance-free, marine-grade warranty. A balcony wraps around the £1million penthouse in a sweeping curve that echoes the curve of Lyme Bay. Prices for the remaining three apartments start at £524,000 through seatonbeach.co.uk.
Each has spectacular balcony sea views along the Jurassic coastline, designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The Quantum kitchens, with Silestone worktops, feature low-energy white goods, while high-performance, triple-glazed Norrsken ‘lift and slide’ patio doors open onto south-facing balconies with curved glass and brushed chrome balustrades. Even the solid core oak finished doors have a ten-year warranty.
This is a building designed for the future, producing more energy than it consumes. Any extra energy goes back to the grid, and residents get a deemed export payment via the FiT scheme. In the future most of the surplus will go to electric car charging.
The project was challenging: the 49ft wide x 164ft deep site had a tiny footprint. ‘Instead of the one inefficient home that was on the site, we believed we could produce eight highly energy efficient homes — and give eight families spectacular views,’ Mike says.
Gaining planning consent took more than two years. First the company spent £10,000 digging an 85ft-deep ‘trial hole’ to find out whether the land could support the proposed build. They then drove 87 concrete piles 42ft deep, which could hold two-and-a-half times the building’s proposed weight.
Next they insulated below ground level and wrapped the building in insulation. The ground floor is made up of concrete slabs, while the floors above were created from monolithic clay blocks. The outside of the building is partially clad in mosaic tiles bonded with epoxy resin and a high-performance German render.
Pebbles salvaged from the original boundary wall were utilised on the front wall in a nod to the beach and to be in keeping with the neighbouring properties.
There is also secure allocated parking with charging for electric cars, most of which is covered with a pergola made of reclaimed timbers from the demolished house.
‘To be recognised by our industry peers for our Passivhaus apartment block is a great honour,’ says Mike, who is now eager to share his expertise with self-builders and other developers in a unique Try Before You Build consultancy. ‘If we want to meet our 2050 climate targets on emissions, we need to look at changing the way we build.
‘This development uses 90 per cent less energy than a typical new-build and has produced a building that is carbon positive.’
‘We feel we’ve raised the bar with the standards of this development. And we want to encourage other developers to do the same.’
■ Sponsored by high-performance window specialists Norrsken, the Homebuilding & Renovating Show is at the NEC, Birmingham, March 26-29, more shows later in the year, homebuildingshow.co.uk