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Goldsmith Street

Location: Norwich
Completion Status: Certified Occupancy: Occupied
Architect: Mikhail Riches Consultant: WARM
Contractor: RG Carter Client: Norwich City Council
Certification: Etude Certifier: April 2019
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Goldsmith Street in Norwich, the winner of the 2019 Stirling Prize, is a 100% social housing development for Norwich City Council, comprising 93 Passivhaus homes spread across 7 blocks aligned in 4 simple rows on a traditional street pattern. On completion in 2019 it took the title of the UK's largest Passivhaus certified residential scheme.  


What do the residents think?

Four years after moving in, occupants at Goldsmith Street Passivhaus share a glimpse of how much better it would be if the UK’s homes were properly insulated & ventilated. Read more in the Guardian article ‘Life changing’: the social housing helping to cut heating bills in Norwich.

“The price of everything is going up. Even after October’s price hike our monthly energy bill is still only £78 and before it was only £30. We don’t have to put the heating on so it’s cheaper. We feel very lucky.” Goldsmith Street Passivhaus_2022 Occupant Quote_Photograph: Joshua Bright/Joshua Bright for The Guardian

At a time of health fears for more than 3 million households struggling to pay for heating and while others are facing soaring energy bills, this part of the budget is capped by the design of the homes at Goldsmith Street. It is estimated average annual energy bills are capped at £2,500, while in a Passivhaus home, average annual bills are £947 – more than 62% cheaper.

“I’ve reduced some of my medications since coming here. Our previous flat had damp issues. It was depressing to be told by the landlord that it was our fault. Here we can dry clothes indoors in a day with no heating on.” Goldsmith Street Passivhaus_2022 occupant quote_Photograph: Joshua Bright/Joshua Bright for The Guardian

The death of two-year-old Awaab Iskwak in a mouldy Rochdale flat has exposed the squalid state of much of England’s housing stock, with up to 450,000 homes hit with problems of condensation & mould. Although initially sceptical about the claim that design alone could help heat the homes in winter and cool them in summer, some residents are convinced that the warmth and ventilation of their Passivhaus homes have improved their health. Now they are keen to proselytise its benefits.

“We’re facing our first winter here and not putting the heating on so we’re saving money. And the filter system is amazing. We try not to smoke inside because the air is so nice we don’t want to spoil it…. They do what they say on the tin these houses, they’re very clever….. I think we’re very privileged to have this.” Goldsmith Street Passivhaus_2022 occupant quote_Photograph: Joshua Bright/Joshua Bright for The Guardian


If you are looking for more evidence to bolster the business case for your Passivhaus developments read more in our Passivhaus cost benefits guides.

Goldsmith Street © 2020.

Goldsmith Street interactive 360 degree tour © 2020


The terraced housing scheme began life as an RIBA competition (won by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley) in 2008. The competition-winning Goldsmith Street design did not aim for Passivhaus standard at the outset. The council’s subsequent conversion was sparked by two local housing association projects in north Norfolk, and adopted a  fabric first framework.

Passivhaus is a good way of building because it both helps with fuel poverty and is aligned with our climate change agenda through carbon emissions reduction.’

Andrew Turnbull, senior housing development officer, Norwich City Council


Goldsmith Street aerial view ©Mikhail Riches/John Fielding aerial photography

Goldsmith Street aerial view © Mikhail Riches/ John Fielding aerial photography


All the new council-owned energy-efficient homes, a mix of 2-4 bed houses and 1-3 bed flats, are let for social rent through Norwich Home Options.

Goldsmith Street, Street section

Narrow streets, carefully considered window placement, and cleverly sloped roofs maximise daylight into a dense development, that does not feel oppresive or unsafe. Parking has been pushed to the perimeter to help maintain openess.


Key Stats

Treated Floor Area (TFA): 3,337.7m2

Year of completion: 2019

Units: 93 certified Passivhaus homes

Construction cost £14.7 million

Construction cost per m2 £1,875 (excluding professional fees)

Goldsmith Street Mikhail Riches/ Tim Crocker


It has been fantastic to meet some of the residents and hear their stories, which have shown the real difference these new homes will make. This development demonstrates our commitment to providing high quality social housing and I’m especially proud of these properties’ eco-credentials which will benefit residents as well as the environment.

Cllr Gail Harris, Norwich City Council


Architect Mikhail Riches explains that cost savings were made early in the design process by making significant alterations to the brickwork, roof and foundation packages, which didn't affect energy performance. The savings made in other areas allowed the Passivhaus features to be safeguarded. That is not to say that this is a low spec development. Contemporary materials include black glazed pantiles traversing from roof to wall, contrasting light coloured brick, and perforated metal brise soleil.


Energy Performance

Goldsmith Street Mikhail Riches

Airtightness (≤0.6ACH@50pascals)  


Thermal Energy Demand (≤15kWh/m².yr)


Thermal Energy Load (≤10W/m²)


Primary Energy Demand (≤135kWh/m².yr)


This is Mikhail Riches's first Passivhaus project and they had high architectural expectations. The architects wanted the Passivhaus Standard to work to the design rather than the design being secondary to complying with the Passivhaus Standard.

I think that’s where a lot of Passivhaus schemes fail,” adds Turner. “The focus is often too much on making the project Passivhaus compliant and forgetting that there still needs to be good design. This is where we pushed the design hard to achieve both.

James Turner, Mikhail Riches


This has been reflected in the finished result with services concealed and elegantly integrated into the design. Gas meter cupboards are concealed, gas pipework is hidden within the cavity of the brickwork, MVHR intakes are intelligently controlled, and boiler flues are not visible from the street. 

It had to be ensured that systems & services employed were accessible and maintainable by the Council so they could readily adopt the new buildings with little issue. Each dwelling has a range of providers’ services pre-wired, so that they can be connected on demand, mitigating the need for service providers to come in later and unintentionally damage or drill through vital airtightness layers.


Key lessons learned

1. Have an aspiration & commitment to achieve Passivhaus from the outset

2. Manage solar gains & overshadowing carefully

3. Early service co-ordination essential to integrate into design

4. Careful selection of construction method – to ensure repeatability


Key Team

Client: Norwich City Council

Architect: Mikhail Riches

Contractor: RG Carter

M&E engineer: Greengauge

Passivhaus consultants: WARM

Clerk of Works: Enhabit

Quantity Surveyor: Hamson Barron Smith

Structural Engineer: Rossi Long Consulting

Timber frame: Cygnum Timber Frame    

MVHR supplier: Green Building Store

Certifier: Etude

Goldsmith Street Mikhail Riches/ Matthew Pattenden


Given that the upcoming Future Homes Standard is likely to increase regulations to the equivalent of Passivhaus certification within the next few years, good coordination and collaboration are key drivers of successful delivery. Goldsmith Street demonstrates all the positives that can be achieved when everyone involved pulls together in the same direction.

All images unless otherwise stated ©Mikhail Riches


Further Information

Passivhaus Social Housing: Maximising benefits, minimising costs.

Passivhaus Social Campaign

Previous PHT story: Goldsmith Street crowned prize-winning Passivhaus - 8 October 2019

Previous PHT story: Goldsmith Street delivers economies of scale - 20 June 2019

Previous PHT story: Goldsmith Street nears completion - 30 May 2018

Guardian: ‘Life changing’: the social housing helping to cut heating bills in Norwich - 09 December 2022

Rod Ewards Photographer: Goldsmith Street interactive 360 degree tour - 2020

PH Plus: Stirling Work - The passive social housing scheme that won British architecture’s top award - 01 April 2020

BBC: Norwich council estate wins architecture award - 08 October 2019

RIBA: Goldsmith street wins RIBA stirling prize 2019 - 08 October 2019

Guardian: 'A masterpiece': Norwich council houses win Stirling architecture prize – 08 October 2019

Architect’s Journal: Goldsmith Street win confirms UK’s council housing renaissance - 08 October 2019

Building Design: Goldsmith Street wins inaugural Neave Brown Award 08 October 2019



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