The concept was to build a contemporary family home not a show house. The resulting structure was to sit harmoniously within the natural surroundings, particularly the two listed oaks to the rear, and to provide a family friendly, open and light internal living space. The detached dwelling was to comprise one reception room, a kitchen, study, a master suite (en-suite bathroom and dressing room), one en-suite bedroom, two further bedrooms, a family bathroom with utility room, a cloakroom and playroom in the loft.
The house was to sit naturally within its garden setting and to respond to and connect in individual ways to the three surrounding garden spaces. The house should have its own identity but be integrated with the site and its idiosyncrasies. The presence of natural daylight internally was fundamental as was a constant connection to the outside. The gardens were seen as an evolving canvas that would be seen through framed views as part of the design. The building was to be environmentally responsible within the budgetary constraints.
Backland developments require careful consideration of overlooking buildings and appropriate application of scale and massing. The 3m drop from the front of the site to the rear helped to restrict views from the ground floor into neighbouring gardens but first floor windows were reviewed in detail. The result was a set of timber privacy screens on the first floor south facing facade and a totally blank gable end to the first floor of the main block.
The rear of the site looks onto a public footpath and is heavily screened from the gardens to the north by trees, including two listed oak trees that formed part of an important local historic route. The root balls of these trees restricted any development to the rear. Windows on this elevation are limited to the control of heat loss. The west facing elevation overlooks a disused woodland plot.
Despite neighbouring opposition approval was granted but with 18 onerous planning conditions.
Timber was a natural choice of material for the setting and has been used extensively both internally and externally. The external rainscreen cladding consists of vertical western red cedar battens that will silver with age. The supporting cladding cross batten has been hidden to express the vertical character of the external envelope. The vertical character of the timber avoids water staining and echoes the many white trunked silver birch trees on the site.
An aluminium edge trim acts as a datum to divide the top and bottom levels of the house. The upper floors have stained timber framed triple glazed windows that contrast with the silver cladding. The ground floor glazing has double glazed full height units with sliding doors that are coloured to match the thin steel supports. The glazed panels are finished with a silicon bond thereby avoiding a capping strip to the cladding. The colour of the external sandstone complements the internal oak engineered flooring to create a blend of internal and external finishes.
A dark brown brick plinth surrounds the raft ground floor slab on 18m deep piles. The main roof is covered with dark grey 60% recycled slates. Parapets allow the solar panels to be inset into the roofline with a sedum roof to the flat roof of the two storey section. The flat roof section has a sedum roof that softens the appearance when viewed from neighbouring properties.
Method of Construction
Access is limited to the 2.7m wide path between the two neighbours to the south on Montpelier Road. As a planning restriction vehicles were not permitted on to site. The overall structure was a combined timber and lightweight steel frame, steel being used for the large south facing openings and on two levels at the joint between the two volumes.
A 300mm insulated ply sheeted double stud wall construction forms the main building envelope. A number of partition walls are load bearing and brace the overall 'barn' shape of the larger block. The timber frame was made up on site by a team of 4 carpenters. Ecojoists were imported for the 1st floor and roof levels. The roof trusses were made up on site and lifted onto the top floor with a spider crane.
With a floor area of 300sqm and an all inclusive budget of £400k this was a project which needed to be carefully managed and planned. The hard and soft landscaping was additional to the contract sum. New furniture will be added over time!
Planning was granted in October 2010. Detail design and tender were completed in January 2011. Construction started March 2011. The project was completed in January 2012.
Nick Baker Architects