Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research is to partner with Biophilic Living on an innovative mixed-use regeneration development in the heart of Swansea city centre that will transform the site of the former Woolworth store on Oxford Street into a 13-storey mixed-use building with affordable and shared-ownership housing, retail and low-carbon commercial office space and a community urban farm.
Hailed as a first for the UK, the project will trial a new, scalable model designed to change the way in which inner-city housing in Wales is conceived.
Residents will be able to grow their own produce using the integral urban-farm facility. Featuring two south-facing greenhouses at roof level, the building will use an aquaponics system, developed by Swansea University academics, designed to produce up to 4.5 tonnes of fruit, vegetables and herbs per year.
Aquaponics is a food-production system that creates a continuous cycle in which water containing the waste produced by fish that live in on-site tanks is pumped to greenhouses to provide nutrients for crops. The water is then filtered and recirculated back into the system.
The vision for Biophilic Swansea includes residents running and managing the urban farm as a social enterprise. This is founded on research demonstrating that reconnecting with nature is essential to our well-being, and that there are positive community and health outcomes from growing food and living more closely with the natural world.
‘The Biophilic Living development will clearly be an inspirational building for the people who will live and work there, but it is more than an exciting home and workplace,’ said Professor Geoff Proffitt, head of biosciences at Swansea University. ‘The building will be driven through with cutting-edge biological, design and engineering innovations. It will be a living, working example of great design, innovation and existing technology combining to support and nurture human health and well-being.’
Swansea-based Hacer Developments is behind the scheme, which has been designed by Swansea architects Powell Dobson. The building is earmarked for completion by the end of 2023.
‘There is an urgent need for housing and mixed-use developments that are sustainable in terms of their environmental impact and economic viability, as a response to the climate emergency and to ensure greater resilience and well-being for urban communities,’ said David Dolman, head of development at Hacer. ‘Launching the biophilic model here requires a huge collaborative effort, but the work of our project teams, designers, stakeholders and legal teams already demonstrates that Wales can lead the way in revolutionising how we design our living and working environments.’