Winner — Therma and Solar buildings - East Midlands

Magna Park is Britain’s first, and Europe’s largest, dedicated distribution park. It arose from a research project undertaken by Gazeley, a developer with a visionary reputation. This aimed to create an “eco-template” that would define the meaning of best practice and good design for every distribution centre in the future. In general terms, the template identifies how distribution buildings can be designed to deliver 26% reductions in carbon emissions, 25% energy savings and 75% water savings. These advances are achieved by a total of 11 features that enhance the building’s environmental performance, from extensive photovoltaic arrays on the roof to solar water heating and ground-source heat pumps. Even the office areas are decorated using organic paint. Taken together, these innovations fulfil the developer’s ambition to set out just what ecological design means in the first decade of the 21st century.

The finalists

Eden Frame - Leith close, Cliburn

The fact that the price of energy has climbed like a surface-to-air missile over the past three years has had a serious impact on Britain’s increasingly endebted households. At the same time, it has strengthened the economic argument for energy efficient houses, and this has created more opportunities for builders to sell green homes on their financial merits, rather than installing minimal insulation and fantastic central heating. Eden Frame is one company that has done just that at its Leith Close development in Cliburn in Penrith, Cumbria. The wooden houses get their heat from a wood-burning stove backed up by photovoltaic panels, heat-recovery systems and extremely high levels of insulation. What’s more, according to the local authority, the workmanship was first-rate, too.

Manchester council - CIS tower

This Co-operative movement headquarters is still about the most distinctive building in Manchester. However by the time it reached middle age, its original cladding, made up of millions of mosaic tiles, had lost their glitter, turned a dull grey and started to fall out. The solution was to clad the tower with photovoltaic panels, which offered protection, attraction and a great

deal of renewable energy from Europe’s largest vertical solar array. Useful when you remember that Manchester, contrary to its reputation, has more sunny days in a year than Paris. And, in addition to these benefits the council has erected the biggest advert for solar energy in northern Britain, and had much of the cost covered by the North-west Regional Development Agency and the DTI.

St George - Battersea Reach

This immense site put to use a heavily contaminated derelict industrial site, and it is eloquent testament to the commercial courage of St George that it took on the inevitable complexities with such verve. From an ecological point of view, the project stands out because a team of marine biologists and ecologists were given the job of creating a new habitat on the banks of the Thames. The tidal and meadow planting scheme is intended to increase the growth of flora and fauna, from mud dwellers to butterflies and birds. This application was endorsed by the head of Wandsworth council’s building control department, who praises the tidal planting zones, which required a whole stretch of river defences to be demolished and reconstructed inland, allowing the Thames to be returned to its natural state.

Shaw Construction - Woodside

This gem of a project is a low-energy house on a 2-acre wooded site in Dorset. The striking design incorporates a panoply of green features. On the south side there is a conservatory made with a floor of quarry tiles to add thermal mass, whereas the windows on the north side are small, and services rooms have been used to create a thermal buffer. The roof is wrapped in a 250mm layer of sheepswool. Most of the building’s structure is made from local cedar, with local oak for the windows – so hardly any energy is embodied, or used for transportation. Actually, most of the rest of the house was sourced from within 20 miles of the site, from the kitchen to the Portland stone fireplace and wall tiles. The technological centrepiece of the house is the 80m of “Slinky” – coils that collect heat from the ground, with the help of a heat pump, and these are supplemented by photovoltaic panels in the garage roof.