Located on the outskirts of the World Heritage site of Bath, award-winning architects Hewitt Studios were commissioned to build a £1.5 million eco-conscious home, completely unique in its location. The site is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This acronym describes an area in England, Wales or Northern Ireland that has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. It is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest, or SSSI, which are protected areas that create the building blocks for nature conservation legislation in the UK.
Such a sensitive site called for sensitive planning from the architects, who came up trumps in their design that considered the location of the home, and the environment it surrounds, in every aspect of the entire project. Let's have a look at a fine example of sustainable architecture, that has implemented a number of eco-conscious aspects to its design.
Located in Limpley Stoke, a village in Wiltshire, Hewitt Studios were met with design challenges right from the outset. The location of the new build is on a steep sloping site, that is also highly visible in the landscape because of its elevation. The roof of the upper storey slopes away from the hillside, preserving the views of the houses behind, and reducing the visible height from across the valley.
Passive energy denotes a natural energy source, or method, in which a home or building can be heated, cooled and ventilated. Perfect examples might be the orientation of the home, in order to harness the heat of the sun, or using certain building materials for their insulating properties—either reducing or negating the need for artificial heating or cooling systems.
The architects used a number of passive energy strategies, including carbon sequestering materials such as timber for the structure and cladding. Straw was also used as an insulator, due to its breathability and capacity to regulate temperature fluctuations, also known as thermal inertia. For this same reason, concrete was chosen as the flooring throughout due to its thermal mass.
Another sustainable energy strategy employed by Hewitt Studios is active energy. As opposed to passive energy strategies, which is energy not being converted into another form of energy, active energy is in fact the opposite, with the generated energy being converted into another form of energy. One example is a solar panel harnessing the sun's rays, warming a fluid (not the water itself), which is then piped through the water to heat it.
Here, active energy has been used in solar panels which create electricity for the home, and have also been strategically placed to overhang from the exterior walls, essentially acting as eaves to shade the veranda. If you look closely, you can see them poking through in the centre of the image.
In keeping with its ecological motif, a number of other sustainable practices are in place around the home. A green roof has been installed, using sedum plants. Green roofs are a great alternative to conventional roofing as they are eco-friendly, are a great insulator, and in this case, help harvest rainwater for use in the garden. In the studio, a compost toilet has been installed, which requires no chemicals, additives, sewer connection, and is odourless. A herb and vegetable garden also flourishes, and bat and dormouse boxes installed around the house, giving shelter for native species.
With all these sustainable elements in place, the end result is a truly eco-conscious home in every sense, which respects its delicate surrounding landscape, whilst allowing the owners to enjoy the beautiful views of the location.
Want to see another example of eco-friendly British architecture? Then check out our ideabook on a passive house in Gloucestershire, here.