UK first: Carbon negative community unveiled

October 2012: Sinclair Meadows the UK’s first carbon negative affordable housing scheme has been unveiled in South Tyneside, North East England, by not-for-profit housing provider Four Housing Group. Sinclair Meadows was purpose designed and built to surpass the Government’s definition of zero carbon and to exceed the minimum requirement for Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Decerna, part of the UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre, played a key role in the  early research and feasibility stages of this project.

Using the most innovative design principles and incorporating pioneering renewable energy methods and technologies, the project is  15 per cent beyond the current zero carbon definition, and will be more than 60 per cent beyond the 2013 definition.*

Crucial to its success is the engagement and skill training offered to tenants to establish a truly sustainable, vibrant community village that reflects the ethos and aims of the project.

The design, technology and tenant training mean that Sinclair Meadows is self-carbon negative and does not require any external offsetting to achieve carbon negativity – the first time this has been achieved for social housing in the UK.

This work would not have been possible without the initial vision and hard work of the various partners involved, including South Tyneside Council and Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle

Technically Pioneering

The Sinclair Meadows development is home to one of the largest array of photovoltaic modules on domestic dwellings in the UK which reduces demand on traditional energy resources and exports any excess energy back to the grid.  From its inception, the project has been focussed on the quality of the building fabric, especially on air tightness and heat loss.

The properties have been built using natural materials wherever possible, such as timber frames, hemp insulation and lime render. For the organic fabrics, throughout their growing cycle, these materials have absorbed massive amounts of CO2 which is then locked into the development for the life of the buildings.

Sinclair Meadows is unique because it is the first purpose built and designed carbon negative housing scheme on this scale that, within three years of being built, has the ability to remove its own carbon footprint created during construction. Once the development has reached the end of its useful life, the majority of the materials will be reusable, recyclable and biodegradable.

Dawn Keightley, Director of Operations, Four Housing Group


Decerna, part of the UK National Renewable Energy Centre group of companies, were heavily involved in the early design stage of the project.  The two major aspects of this were:

  • Decerna worked interactively with Fitz Architects on the building designs by carrying out dynamic thermal modelling on various possible concepts
  • A detailed energy strategy was developed, considering the positive and negative aspects of all the possible energy solutions which could be used for the development (photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and biomass).  This work used the thermal modelling calculations to understand the probably energy demands of Sinclair Meadows.

Further details of Decerna’s involvement in the project can be found in the case study at:

Smarter Living

The properties at Sinclair Meadows have been built so that the main habitable rooms are south facing – maximising natural heat and helping residents to save money on energy bills as well as reducing the development’s environmental impact.

The heating and hot water will be provided by a communal biomass boiler which will use recycled timber fuel pellets.

A rainwater harvesting system ensures rainwater from the roofs of the properties is stored in underground storage tanks – a combined system for the apartments and individual systems for the houses. This water will then be used in the toilets, as well as for gardening at the properties to reduce the amount of mains water used by the residents through everyday activities.

The completed homes have energy monitoring systems installed. These allow the occupiers to see the energy that they are using at any one time, and to make informed decisions about reducing their energy use and saving money.

Keightley adds:

The signs are excellent with large numbers of potential tenants showing interest in the homes. We look forward to welcoming them in to see the technology in action and to experience life in the most advanced carbon negative social housing community in the UK. These low energy, quality homes offer security and predictability at a time when fuel costs are volatile, so we also expect our tenants to benefit financially.

Tenants will be extensively trained in how to be energy efficient in their new homes so they have the opportunity to minimise their energy use and maximise savings. Four Housing Group will monitor the energy supplies and will be there to offer ‘green’ advice to residents.

The houses will also generate significant revenue returns under the Government’s energy incentives, including the Feed in Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive.


 Media contacts at Decerna, 01670 357685

Tom Bradley –

Notes to Editors


The development at Sinclair Meadows has received £1.7m in funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and has been designed and developed in partnership with a number of key organisations including South Tyneside Council, Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, Fitz Architects, Narec and contractor Galliford Try Partnerships North.

Quote from Fitz Architects

‘Having started working on the project in 2007 we are extremely happy to see the project finished and constructed’. It’s been an exciting experience to be involved in this ground breaking project in what is now our 5th year of business. We have learned so much and feel that the strong concept that won the project competition has been carried through to completion’.

About Four Housing Group

 Four Housing Group provides affordable homes and quality services which improve the lives of the people who live in them. It does this by creating vibrant, diverse and sustainable communities.

As the parent company of Three Rivers Housing Association and Berwick Borough Housing, the Group owns and manage over 5,000 properties across the North East of England stretching from Redcar and Cleveland to Berwick-upon-Tweed.  The organisation provides a range of services which give people in the North East choice about where and how they live.

These services include:

  • General needs housing;
  • Supported housing;
  • Care and repair services providing home improvements, home adaptations and handyperson services; and
  • Shared ownership housing for sale.

For more information on Four Housing Group, its latest developments and services to tenants please visit: or call 08000 461 452 (free telephone number 24/7).

About Decerna

 Decerna is part of the UK’s National Renewable Energy Centre, which exists to create a fair low carbon economy.

Decerna carries out a wide range of work on renewable and low carbon technologies. This work includes:

Design of low carbon buildings

  • Energy plans for whole cities
  • Alleviation of fuel poverty
  • Testing and development of renewable and low carbon technologies
  • European funded research and development
  • Bespoke and accredited training
  • Feasibility studies for all renewable energy technologies

Other parts of the UK National Renewable Energy Centre include Narec, a government funded offshore renewable energy testing centre ( ), and Narec Solar, a world leading photovoltaic R&D organisation (

For more information on Decerna ad its services, please visit or email

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