Elements of a great modern home

A new housing development which won the RIBA Stirling Prize for 2019 has been making headlines not only in industry magazines and websites but in mainstream news.

The Goldsmith Street housing estate in Norwich was a popular nomination and most experts predicted well in advance that it would be a clear winner.

I have written in the past about what makes a great family home (Faris Mousa: The Most Important Piece Of Furniture In Any Home) so let’s look at what makes this an award winning development

Energy efficiency

Climate change is something which is affecting us all, and for which we all have a responsibility to address. Modern day architects must not only employ sustainable working practices, but also create buildings which are themselves energy efficient.

Goldsmith Street was built to Passivhaus environmental standards, which is considered the ultimate goal. This covered even the tiniest of details, from the angle of the roof designed so that it didn’t cast shade on a neighbour, to external letterboxes which won’t create draughts through the front door. Not only is this great for the planet, but it will save residents an estimated 70 on their energy bills.

Social harmony

The development contains 105 homes, and they have been laid out in a way that encourages social interaction. Isolation can lead to poor mental and physical health, but in this neighbourhood it's easy for residents to get to know their neighbours. Plenty of green space and childrens’ play areas have been located away from roads, too, which means they’re safe from traffic.


There will be many social housing projects built this year and next year, across a great number of councils, by a variety of architects. And the easy choice is to build something exactly like everything else that has gone before. But Norwich’s council members had the bravery and ambition to try something new, and Mikhail Riches Architects and Cathy Hawley had the ability and expertise to create something completely truly original. So by breaking from the norm, the two have created something which benefits the residents, shines a positive light on Norwich, and hopefully will inspire others to be a little bolder.