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Picton Yard, a laboratory of Biophilic Living

Swansea City Centre

Feb 2020

Biophilic Living is a response to current global issues and provides a template to transform city living. Picton Yard is our pilot project and aims to create a true community within a mixed-use development that integrates an urban farm and renewable technologies.

In a time when we are facing an unprecedented global climate emergency and experiencing a quick growth in urban population, we must approach design in a much more collaborative way. Our time demands a radical response from governments and those shaping the urban environment. While there are positive steps at national and local levels, far more ambitious plans and accelerated action are needed on mitigation and adaptation. 

Biophilic Living is the response to this important issue and Picton Yard is the first of our Biophilic Living Projects. The proposal is for a radical change to the way we live in urban environments, to provide a template to transform city living. It offers a deeper understanding of what dwelling means, because only by being aware of our impact on the planet can we do something to minimise it. Biophilic Living is related to how we, as human beings, relate mentally, socially and emotionally to nature. 

The project has brought together a multidisciplinary team of architects, environmentalists, scientists, engineers and green infrastructure specialists. With specific input from Swansea and Cardiff Universities and a large group of advisors, the team have pooled their expertise with the aim of testing, learning and disseminating.

This pilot project emerges from a responsible and sustainable approach to Swansea City living. The proposal re-uses an existing 1960’s concrete framed building refurbished and extended to provide a mix of uses including retail, commercial and residential space. Biophilia is a holistic approach to the design including good quality amenity, green space internally and externally with daylit courtyards serving the commercial spaces, well orientated apartments to maximise the views and daylight with large balconies including built-in planters, green walls, greenhouses and beekeeping.  

Integrated into the project is a vertical urban farm run by a Community Interest Company (CIC) incorporating aquaponic technologies. The urban farm will allow members to grow their own produce, run a business, learn and experience the benefits of healthy food choices and crucially, be part of a new city community. 

Special effort has been made to integrate and coordinate the different technologies and building systems to maximize efficiency and minimise waste. Energy is generated through renewable energy sources in the form of PV panels, PV cells with battery storage and Air Source Heat Pumps which provide hot water to Thermal Store and heating panels. CO2 sequestration and heat capture from stale air is used to increase greenhouse yield. The renewable technologies will reduce resident’s energy bills and smart supply and metering will lessen energy demand for retail and commercial spaces. Rainwater attenuation, collection and recycling will be used for irrigation and grey water use throughout. The inclusion of green walls, green and blue roofs, brise-soleil systems and vegetation around the building increases thermal mass, improves biodiversity and helps with glare control and overheating.

The project is rooted in the urban fabric with the delivery of a new piece of public realm. Picton Yard with the option to be covered, can be used during day and night and under all weather conditions. It will host multiple configurations, events and be a destination essential to the placemaking strategy. It will also contribute to the educational output of the project being directly linked to the base of the tower, where all smart technologies will be displayed as part of a permanent exhibition.

The project has been granted planning permission and is due to start on site later this year. At a national level it has been supported by a Welsh Government Innovative Housing Programme (IHP3) grant and it has received a regeneration fund from the City & County of Swansea. 

Biophilic Living at Picton Yard will bring true mixed-use regeneration to Swansea City centre through a socially and environmentally responsible proposal. A holistic approach to design aims to maximise efficiency and work towards a circular economy. The design is human centred with the real innovation in how people’s lives, health and wellbeing are impacted and changed by the space they occupy. The project will be a benchmark proposal providing essential data to help to refine future designs.