Little Kelham – a low carbon urban neighbourhood in Sheffield. 

Robert Allen, Marketing Manager at Citu, describes how this property development company focusses on mitigating climate change through changing the way we live in our cities.  

Why is Little Kelham so important? 

Citu is a purpose driven business that exists to tackle climate change. When you know climate change is real, you have a responsibility to act, and we’ve applied that responsibility to everything we design and how we create it.  

The construction industry is a major emitter of carbon emissions and has been slow to change. We set out to disrupt the industry and show a better and more sustainable way of building is possible. The catalyst for industry wide change is to show that it is possible to deliver energy efficient, low carbon homes at scale whilst maintaining quality.  

Little Kelham in Sheffield is the project where we’ve set up the model to enable this new norm, from building the team to establishing the supply chain. Creating streets designed for people allows us to better use the space available to create a viable economic model. Low energy buildings in a mix of residential, commercial and leisure spaces offer a deliverable vision of a sustainable city. 

Who did you work with? 

The layout and architecture of Little Kelham was designed in-house by our talented team of designers.   

We worked with Leeds Beckett University of the design of our timber framed housing system that is now being used at our adjacent site, Kelham Central. The system was designed in house by Citu, helped by a grant from Innovate UK.  

How easy or difficult has it been? 

Delivering a new concept entails significant challenges. There were many hurdles we had to overcome, from funding, warranties, delays, ground contamination from the sites former industrial use, and even contactors going into liquidation.  

The biggest learning curve has been creating the vertically integrated model we now use to deliver our homes, both at Little Kelham and our other sites. This took several years to set up and refine but has set us up for long term success.   

How does Little Kelham mitigate against climate change? 

Little Kelham drastically reduces demand for fossil fuels, as none of the homes 153 or workplaces at the site are heated with fossil fuels, and the on-site PV arrays helps reduce energy needs further. Creating a walkable ’15 minute neighbourhood’ where workplaces, key amenities, leisure and entertainment are all within walking distance means fewer trips in cars and lowers car ownership, saving yet more resources.  

Restoring existing heritage buildings (rather than demolishing and re—building) and reducing embodied carbon in the new buildings prevented >20,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. The reduction in operational emissions from the buildings due to their efficiency and having no fossil fuel heating systems at the site will prevent >15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over the lifetime of the homes.  

In additional to the emissions prevented directly by the buildings, the site’s central location, proximity to excellent public transit, and the way it is designed to prioritise pedestrians means very large carbon savings from reduced need to travel by car when compared to new disconnected suburban developments.  

How does Little Kelham improve resilience to climate impacts? 

The high standards of efficiency we’ve built the homes in Little Kelham to means they perform far better in extremes of temperature, being better at retaining heat in winter and preventing overheating in summer. 

How has Little Kelham benefited the community? 

Little Kelham has created a new thriving community on what was once industrial wasteland. It has been a catalyst for regeneration in the wider area, playing a key role in the Kelham Island area in which it sits. This was named the Greatest Neighbourhood in the UK by the Academy of Urbanism.  

When we set out to build Little Kelham we expected the area to improve but did not expect the amazing transformation into being one of the coolest areas to live in the UK, with a thriving community. It’s been fantastic to have played a big role in that transformation.  

How can others in Yorkshire and Humber learn from your work?   

Sharing best practice can speed the transition to more sustainable ways of building. We can’t do this alone; we need the whole industry to be pushing the envelope to create zero carbon cities. 

Little Kelham provides a blueprint for how new developments could be designed and built. Mixed-use places on brownfield sites with great transport links designed to be low carbon should become the norm rather than the exception. 

What are your plans for the future? 

We will be creating new low carbon mixed use developments across Yorkshire. We have a pipeline of over two thousand homes in Yorkshire to build before 2030. 

Do you have a tip to share? 

Be ambitious. We’re running out of time and the planet needs more people to make difficult things happen.