County Durham’s first eco-building has celebrated ten successful years of supporting small businesses in the region.
The Greenhouse, at Stanley, is owned and operated as a social enterprise by charity Groundwork North East & Cumbria, which has offices within the building, and provides high-quality meeting and conference facilities alongside business units, which are currently at full capacity hosting 16 small-medium enterprises.
Opened in 2006 at a cost of £4.3million, The Greenhouse was designed to be a sustainable development and incorporated cutting edge eco-technology to limit the site’s impact on the environment.
The Greenhouse is powered and heated using environmentally-friendly means, including a 35metre wind turbine, a ground source heating/cool system and roof-mounted solar panels. Even the building’s L-shape was considered to maximise the sun’s light and heat potential.
Other energy-saving tactics employed at the three acre site include a passive ventilation system and a rainwater capture system that collects rain from the roof, which is then filtered and used on site, with any excess used to fill a lake at the front of the building.
During the decade since it first opened its doors many businesses have taken advantage of the Greenhouse’s facilities and a number of its original tenants still occupy offices at the site, including County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, specialist ecological consultancy Argus Ecology and AH Events.
Kate Culverhouse, Chief Executive of Groundwork North East & Cumbria, said: “It’s astonishing to think that The Greenhouse has been up and running for a decade. The project has been a huge success – it has supported local businesses, provided training and education opportunities for local people, and protected the environment by generating its own power, minimising energy use and promoting biodiversity.
“During its ten-year life span, The Greenhouse has created jobs, educated schoolchildren, produced millions of kilowatts of sustainable power, won multiple awards, and provides a lovely place to enjoy a lunch break.
“The Greenhouse reflects Groundwork’s vision of a society of sustainable communities which are vibrant, healthy and safe; respectful of the global environment, and where individuals and enterprise are able to thrive.”
Adam Hillary, is the Managing Director of AH Events, which has had its base at the Greenhouse since the eco-building first opened. He said: “The Greenhouse has been our home since the beginning and we still love being here. It has a fantastic community atmosphere. All of the staff, and the other businesses, support one another, which is absolutely fantastic.
“When we first came to look at the building we were initially sold on its eco-credentials and affordability, but now I couldn’t think of a better location to be based. As an events business we do a lot of travelling, so it’s always nice to come back to The Greenhouse. To see the ducks on the pond, and spend time walking through the open green spaces, can be very relaxing and therapeutic.”
Paul Lupton, a Director of Argus Ecology, a specialist ecological consultancy which provides advice on wildlife, nature conservation and environmental impact assessments, said: “We love having our offices at The Greenhouse. It perfectly chimes with our values as a business and I couldn’t think of a better workplace environment. It is full of natural light and the setting is superb.
“Argus Ecology actually did some of the ecological surveys when the building was being planned and we knew straight away that we wanted to make this our base. The Greenhouse is set in such a beautiful landscape and you’d be hard-pressed to find another workplace with so many facilities all under one roof and such a great community of businesses. Here’s to another ten years!”