Over the years eco-design has become more and more important to me. As a little background, my experience is in the field of sustainability and environmentalism – I love beautiful design which doesn’t cost (us) the earth. I wanted, and want, to live as sustainably as I can and believe that a home, whilst being beautiful designed and cleverly executed can offer sustainability and long term durability too. It goes beyond clothing and what we wear. Though my work has kept me between London and Los Angeles, I am a Cambridge girl, born and bred, and nothing beats leaving the intensity of London (which I do love) to reconnect with the place I grew up and catch up with friends and family.
Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom and inspiration, and the patron goddess of heroic endeavour. It is also the name for Cambridge’s stunning new lifestyle homes and apartments by Hill. The gorgeous properties are inspired by the city’s historic character and are award-winning designs, forming part of an ambitious project by the University of Cambridge to deliver a new neighbourhood for its city.
Located just 10 minutes by bike from Cambridge’s market square, and close in size to ninety full size football pitches or 150 times the size of Trafalgar Square, Cambridge’s Eddington offers an exciting new place to call home. With a market square acting as the heart of this new neighbourhood, a little discovery trek will take you around the range of retail, leisure and community facilities which include a supermarket, the University of Cambridge Primary School, a community & performing arts centre, and yet to come; independent shops, cafes / restaurants, a hotel and a health centre. I will be the first to admit though, that I didn’t expect to discover sustainability in my hometown as I did at Athena.
I can’t tell you why as humans we feel lighter, more grounded and self-aware when we are surrounded by green. It just does something for the soul, you know? Eddington’s entire design balances eco-construction and the enhancement of the area’s ecology. Practical for convenient living and surrounded in green – with plans to plant over 2500 trees, and offer extensive cycle and walk pedestrian routes – Eddington offers 50 hectares of green space. This green nod at sustainability which is revealed when you scratch beneath the surface. By meticulously planning, Eddington is working to create a place which encourages its residents and locals to lead more sustainable lives, at home and work.
Designed to last for generations to come, the homes have been built to an exceptional spec according to the Code for Sustainable Homes, in this case an impressive Level 5 of 6. Of course, this is just terminology for those not in the field, just like in the sustainable fashion world, it’s important to know what terms mean. They give context to intention and dedication. So, I did some research of my own. Launched 12 years ago, the Code, part of a collection of eco-focused measures is a method for assessing and certifying the sustainable design and construction of new homes, with the aim to drive down UK carbon emissions. All homes at Athena are at this level which is impressive, and important.
Sustainability is not a buzzword, it’s the key descriptor for all businesses seeking to be relevant in 2019 and going forward. If working in the eco-fashion world has taught me anything, it is that sustainability is most effective when built into the foundation of a thing. Built-in trumps afterthought, each and every time. It is fundamental. In the fashion world, this translates to everything from quality materials and slow considered and functional garment construction. With Athena homes, this means robust construction and the big E, ‘Efficiency’ from insulation to energy, all crucial steps to keep electricity and water consumption low.
Inside the home, natural light floods through the gorgeous clean lines of the Athena home. I personally fell in love with the spacious kitchen with its composite stone workshops and engineered wooden flooring. The space was a literal dream. Preparing our Christmas feast was fun and easy as our family and guests moved around in the busiest room during Christmas (where all the food is of course!) – energy efficient appliances, check, integrated pull out waste bin with recycling facilities, check! This might be boring to some, but this stuff really floats my boat. Why? Because every step it one towards minimising damage to environment, enhancing life sustainably and well, you know, not adding to global warming and all that jazz!
Going beyond the fundamentals, Athena’s ‘Desirables’ include solar panels, green roofs which manage surface water, acting as flood-proofing and slowing rainwater run-off, across to the triple glazed windows which require little to no maintenance. My favourite, the ‘Invisibles’ concept is all the bits you do not see with your naked eye but are positively eco and impactful. In this case an underground district heating and rainwater harvesting system. The latter is in fact the the UK’s largest, filtering rainwater through Brook Leys reed beds, which hold up to 6 million litres of water, and returning it, treated to be used as non-potable water by Eddington’s residents for garden watering, flushing toilets and washing machines use. These water saving measures alone cut Eddington’s clean water consumption from Cambridge’s average of 150 litres/person per day to 80 litres.
So, why does all of this matter? 12% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from domestic buildings, and since the government has declared that by 2020, all (new build?) homes must be zero carbon, it’s time to start caring. I really believe that in every area of our lives, we can make sustainability and smart design part of our wishlist and/or reality. It’s time that we associated eco-design, not only in the fashion world, but in all industries, with all the positive change it has to offer. Just like ethical fashion isn’t only about hemp gowns, sustainable home design is much more than a solar panel. It’s the smart natural light which takes our breath away and illuminates gorgeous rooms whilst quietly requiring the use of less artificial lighting, harvesting solar gain and reducing energy bills over time. Athena’s eco homes are innovative and come in all guises, in this case traditional elements used to create contemporary, modern, clean design full of 21st century character.
I found the parallels between what my work as Vice President of Red Carpet Green Dress, and what it has taught me about successful sustainable design and what Hill has created with these beautiful homes surprising and uplifting. Both reveal that a clear focus on uncompromising quality and high specification delivers sustainable excellence, time and time again. This Cambridge-born girl with a passion for eco design can definitely see the benefits of calling Cambridge home once more in the near future!
To view these stunning sustainable homes yourself, go to www.athena-cambridge.co.uk to arrange a viewing or visit the Athena Sales & Marketing Suite which is open daily 10am – 5.30pm.