Site visit to our Stoke Poges build

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It’s always exciting to see a project that you have created coming together.

That’s exactly how we felt on our latest trip to Stoke Poges, to visit the site of our innovative new build with a contemporary design and similar feel to a German Huf Haus.

The greyness of the day didn’t attract from the immensity of the building as it has begun to take shape, complementing the plot with its innovative structure and creative design.

With the main structure built, and character of the interior being established, we are well on our way to completing the project in time for our May target.


So, what makes this project so unique? 

Even at first glance it is clear that this property doesn’t fall in line with convention. Its dramatic pitched roof, high ceilings, glass exterior and timber structure give it a different feel to the brick houses that Britain has grown so accustomed to. Its open-plan design and use of windows and glass allow it to capture sunlight and create a bright and modern place to live.


What inspired the design?

Our client came to us with a brief of creating a house with a similar feel to the award-winning German Huf Haus design. Big open spaces and natural light appealed to them, however they wanted the house to have a little more privacy and a more ‘homely’ feel than the original German design. We therefore designed a house with some Huf Haus characteristics, such as the pitched roof, high ceiling, terraces and large glass windows to capture natural light, while maintaining some more British features of a home and tailoring the property to suit our clients preferences, such as supplementing a brick wall on the outside ground floor.


What other features does the house have?

We decided to use innovative construction for the new building, settling on Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) from Kingspan TEK. These are made of wood, but their invisible structure gave us freedom with the interior design. Furthermore, their prefabrication meant that construction time was less and there was limited on-site waste. The panels also have high energy efficiency, allowing for a thinner construction than usual insulation.


What comes next?

Although our Stoke Poges build has begun to take shape and acquire character, there are still things to be done before our May deadline. Currently, underfloor heating and electrics are being fitted and then decorating and finishes for the property will commence. We can’t wait to follow the progress of this contemporary and modern design, and are looking forward to seeing the finished product!

The importance of energy efficient housing

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Before a new house is built, it has to go through a ‘detailing’ process.

This is one of the more technical stages of the design process, where the intricacies of the construction are assessed and the property receives an energy rating based on its efficiency and performance.

A house that uses energy efficiently is not only less costly, but it is also better for the environment. As an architecture company committed to sustainability, Living Space Architects strives to meet the highest accredited energy standards with all of its designs.

This isn’t always a walk in the park- accredited details often don’t match innovative building designs, so the thermal calculation process can become more complicated, involving a more in-depth analyses of the property specifications.


Living Space Architects are currently facing this barrier with the a new build located in Devon. Although the house is designed to be low-energy, its innovative design is not in tune with the accredited details, and so we have set about making changes and alterations to ensure we are able to meet these highest standards.

There are a number of changes and alterations that can be made to new designs to improve their energy rating and enhance their efficiency. Below are some of the ways that we intend to do this with the new build in question:

  1. Change the specification of the air-source heat pump
  2. Modify the insulation product
  3. Change the ventilation system to a heat-recovery system
  4. Work with air-tight detailing

Energy performance is assessed using SAP 2012 methodology, and is rated in terms of the energy use per square meter of floor area, energy efficiency based on fuel costs and environmental impact based on carbon dioxide emissions. In the analysis of the property, an ‘Energy Efficiency Rating’ and ‘Environmental Impact Rating’ are provided. Both ratings use a grading system, which spans from A (very energy efficient, very environmentally friendly) to G (not energy efficient, not environmentally friendly).

One (albeit expensive) way to ensure that a new build is meeting accredited energy standards is to complete a PSI calculation on every detail. This gives a more accurate indicator of energy performance and is effective when dealing with innovative designs that might not fit neatly within established guidelines.


Undertaking this part of the process might seem extensive, but it is a vital part of building any new property and one that Living Space Architects takes very seriously as sustainability is such a core part of the company. We are looking forward to adapting this latest build to make it as energy efficient as possible, so that the final product will not only be a contemporary, modern and stylish design, but will have strong materials in place to ensure it fulfils its low-energy requirements and is the perfect home.

 

Extending a small family home with simple techniques and impressive results

This project is the perfect example of a house that really has become a home.

Jill and James McDowell came to us wanting to give their property in Earl Richards a contemporary revamp. Having been in the family for years, they were not prepared to part ways with their wonderful house, but realised it was time for it to be modernised and opened up to make best use of space and the garden- especially with grandchildren now scurrying around.

They wanted to extend the kitchen and link the dining area to the garden, opening up the inside and creating more space and light. As the property was relatively small, we were able to use fairly simple and low-cost techniques to meet these needs in an innovative and attractive way.

“It was great, as we could apply ideas usually used on larger projects and adapt them to this smaller design” said Kirsty Curnow-Bayley, a Living Space Architect who worked on the project.  “We used simple techniques to create really interesting spaces”.


Below you can see the finished work: seamless access to the garden, great views and a pleasant, bright kitchen space within. Jill and James were delighted with the results.


Feeling the chill? How we went about insulating a heritage home

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One thing about beautiful, historic houses is that they can often be really, really cold.

As Brits, we are no strangers to wacking on the fire and arming ourselves with a fluffy socks and a hot water bottle, but what happens when this simply isn’t enough?


When our client came to us with a brief to create a sustainable and well-insulated home in Broadhembury, we stepped up to the challenge.

They were concerned that it wouldn’t be possible to insulate the existing solid cob and stone walls, which were a large part of the property’s character and charm.

The property wasn’t listed so there was a bit of flexibility on altering the existing fabric, and with our experience of improving the energy performance of existing buildings and working with listed and historic properties, we were well placed to be able to advise.

This time however we wanted to take things a step further. How could we integrate technology usually used when designing new low energy homes on a historic solid wall building?


The emphasis was on creating a living breathing house with natural materials to improve the indoor air quality and create a natural, healthy home.

We suggested bringing on board Ann-Marie Fallon, a certified Passivhaus designer, to model the existing house using PHPP software. This is a time consuming business and involves the input of a lot of data to model the way the house performs now and how it would change following adaptations such as the addition of insulation.

This enabled us to investigate how we could insulate the property and best improve on its energy performance through the type of insulation, its position (internal or external) and thickness. The software also helped us check that no condensation would occur, which is a common concern when insulating solid walls.

The existing walls were a real challenge being constructed of a mixture cob at low level and solid stone at first floor. There was a lack of existing data available for the thermal capacity of cob, and Anne-Marie had to approach the BRE to find information to create her model.  This was then used to predict how the house would behave with added insulation and calculate the potential energy savings.  Using this data we calculated the optimum thickness of insulation to give our client the best energy saving at the most economical price, without compromising the historic fabric.


Our client was also keen to use triple glazing, and we agreed that it did offer worthy benefits for this project, although came at a higher price. We decided to use triple glazing on the north facing link corridor and high performance double glazing throughout the rest of the house. Drafts in older houses are one of the biggest issues for improving energy efficiency, so replacing the windows made a significant difference to the performance of the house.

For the walls, breathable wood fibre insulation was used internally on the first floor where there was a mixture of cob and stone.  This had to be extended along the internal partition walls to prevent thermal bridging and condensation.  Part of the existing house was built in the 1970’s and had a cavity wall construction.  Here we used the wood fibre insulation externally.

The existing cement render was removed from all walls to enable them to breathe and lime render with small pieces of insulating cork used as the external finish to the older parts of the house, with a more standard lime render in other areas. Additionally, a new heating system was installed throughout powered by a wood pellet boiler and new underfloor heating laid in the new extension.

The design of the extension used an oak frame supplied by Carpenter Oak, which was wrapped in an airtight membrane and rendered in lime externally.  This gave a stunning interior space for the kitchen dining room and beautiful spaces where the ‘old meets new’ in the north facing corridor.


So if anyone tells you that an old house can’t be made warm and cosy, while retaining its historical charm and sustainable vision then send them our way!

An English take on a German design: Stoke Poges

Our client came to us with the brief of creating a house with a similar feel to the award-winning German Huf Haus design.

Creeping into the UK market, these timber and glass houses are generally two-storeys high with pitched roof separated at the gable. Typical features include terraces, canopies, roof lights and large windows…we were excited to get started!

The interior is often a very open design with double-height spaces, galleries, high ceilings, open dining, living and kitchen rooms, and connected yet private bedrooms. The design aims to maximise the sunlight and bring the natural world directly into the living space.

Big open spaces and the natural light appealed to our client, but they wanted to have a little more privacy and a more ‘homely’ feel than the original German design.

Our design

For the ground floor, we designed a bright, open living dining and kitchen space, capturing sunlight from the top of the roof and big sliding windows and connecting to a glazed dining area..

The bedrooms were placed in the first floor with en-suites and connections to a large terrace.

We decided to use a innovative construction for our new building, settling on Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) from Kingspan TEK. These fit into the Huf House feel as were made of wood and had an invisible structure which allowed interior design freedom. They are also prefabricated which shortens construction time on site meaning that there is minimal on-site waste and internal work can begin earlier. The panels have a thinner construction than usual insulation and high energy efficiency.

To incorporate the look of an English house while maintaining the dark-light contrast feature of a typical Huf Haus, we supplemented a brick wall on the outside ground floor and white walls above.

 

Restoration of Listed Medieval Hall House, Dartmoor

Today saw the completion of one of our favourite ever projects – the restoration of Staddon House in Walkhampton on the edge of Dartmoor National Park.  Our clients, Sue & Geoff Edwards, bought Staddons back in 2014, and after a year negotiating planning consent and 14 months on site the building is now unrecognisable.

When they bought Staddons, Sue & Geoff understood they had taken on a challenge.  Having previously restored a house in Cornwall and another in rural Italy, they weren’t under any illusion about the work that would be involved.  What they didn’t realise however was that Staddons had much more waiting to be uncovered beneath it’s damp carpets and concrete rendered walls.

On his first visit to the site, Keith McKay the Conservation officer from Dartmoor National Park realised the building might be more than it first appeared.  What everyone had assumed was just another Dartmoor Longhouse could actually be something else entirely.  As a result the planning process had to be paused whilst archeologists were brought in to help piece together Staddon’s long and varied history and shed some light on how the building had been used.

A stunning Grand Medieval fireplace was uncovered behind the small victorian hearth, lumps of granite on the fireplace in the bedroom were confirmed as Medieval candle sconces.  The most exciting news was the uncovering of a medieval beam in the roof  space tarred with soot.  From all this information it was clear that Staddons had once been a much higher status home and was likely much older than it first appeared.  Possibly a high status Medieval Hall House with two storey chamber at one end – perhaps one of the first houses in the village.

The photos attached to this post show how the team at RM builders have brought this fabulous building back to life with the help of the consultants and the passion of the clients.  A real team effort from all has lead to a successful result and a studding home.

Thanks to everyone from RM Builders in Tavistock, Rawlings joinery, DB Heating, D Farnham electrical, Devon Stone and Amos lighting for helping us with this amazing project.  (Sorry if we missed you off list – we owe you a drink!)

Living Space Architects are based in Exeter, Devon and are specialists in building Conservation and the refurbishment and extension of Listed and Historic buildings.  We enjoy working in a Modern Rustic style and introducing new contemporary elements into a historic setting.  We work across the south west on refurbishment and restoration projects with a particular expertise working on projects in Dartmoor National Park, Teignbridge, East Devon, Mid Devon, West Devon and Somerset.

Published in Real Homes Magazine

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Our beautiful house extension and refurbishment project in Grey Wings, Cornwall has been featured in the ‘Design Guide’ for Real Homes Magazine under ‘Sustainable Style’.

This was a wonderful project to be part of, and we worked with obsessive detail to make the property the best it could possibly be.

The result was a highly sustainable and innovative design, embraced the stunning views and location of the property in a contemporary, stylistic manner.

To read more about the design, and see more pictures of this impressive extension, click here.

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