Portfolio project
A feasibility study for the housing development in Oslo

Thibaut Devulder

In this project, we helped a housing developer unlock the potential of a complex site in the beautiful neighbourhood of Nordstrand, in Oslo. Bringing together our skills in site analysis and visualisation, we designed and presented alternative development strategies for the site, helping the developer and the site owner to build architecture that is both inspiring and financially viable.

A visualisation of the site with sun access at different season, as part of our site anany

A visualisation of the site with sun access at different season, as part of our site anany

A view of the site before development, with its mature trees and steep north-facing rocky slope at the back

Surrounding by elegant villas with fantastic views to Oslo Fjord, the undeveloped site had a complex topography, with a north-facing rocky slope dropping 11 meter drop across the site, overgrown with several large mature trees.

This unusual configuration made the site unsuitable for standard off-the-shelf housing solutions. So the developer asked us to assess the viability of a development and to bring in some creative thinking to showcase the potential of the site to the site owner.

Analysing the site

Using available topographic information and photos, we started by creating a 3D model of the site landscape and its surrounding, which would serve as the basis for our analysis and presentation.

The various layers of planning regulations for the site were then analysed and compiled into a clear set of constraints applying to the project. The surrounding architectural context was also carefully taken into consideration, so that the development would not only integrated with the landscape, but also related meaningfully with the existing architectural language and scale of the residential area.

Our visual representation of the constraints on the complex site considerably simplified the decision-making process for the developer

Identifying viable development options and their planning consequences

Presenting these constraints visually, together with topographic and climatic data, we summarised a set of alternative scenarios for the development, each with the associated areas, possible building forms, parking and access requirements and consequences on the potential complexity of the planning process.

With all information clearly summarised, the developer could easily review the options — weighing costs versus complexity of the required planning process — to select an optimal development scale matching his financial and marketing approach.

Thinking with the landscape

With the project scale now clearly defined (in our case, three single family units), we proceeded with structuring the site and developed alternative architectural strategies based on this scenario.

Our focus was on preserving the natural feel of the site, making the most of the existing topography and vegetation to create attractive outdoor spaces with extensive access to the sun for a large part of the year, despite the awkward orientation of the site.

The dwellings were articulated around the different levels of the landscape to minimise groundworks on the site, preserve the existing trees and promote accessibility.

Their volumes were laid out to reduce self-shading of the garden areas, balancing open communal outdoor areas with more private garden spaces linked to each dwelling, framing view from the living spaces and preserving a feeling of privacy from neighbours.

Taking an informed decision

The result was five alternative architectural strategies that could be presented to the developer to the site owner.

We organised our presentation around clear diagrams that visually summarised each strategy, with site plans, massing perspectives and outline dwelling organisations. so that the site owner — who had no previous experience in development — could appreciate the potential of the site and take inform decisions about its future.

Portfolio project
A sensitive contemporary extension

Tom Hughes

How to extend a 1930s 'Arts and Crafts' style detached house? One approach would be to mimic the original building, but that's not always the most sensitive or responsive solution.

The proposed extension takes a back seat to the original house

Our clients asked us to extend their house over a dilapidated single storey 'lean-to' garage, to provide a couple of new bedrooms. They also needed more ground floor space to connect properly with their garden.

Looking at the street scene, it was immediately clear that development pattern was characterised by detached houses with relatively low-key side extensions, containing garages, porches and sheds. To extend with a typical two-storey pitched-roof building would change this pattern and detract from the prominence of the 1930s house. Instead we proposed a subservient, low pitched roof that would sit below the existing building's eaves and drop down into the slope of the land. This would be clad in dark-stained vertical timber boarding, reminiscent of a number of 1930s modernist buildings - a different style but still contemporary with the original.

The extension sits into the sloping site to protect neighbours' views and daylight

Having consulted neighbours and the planning officer, we carefully explained this strategy through our planning application drawings and Design and Access Statement (DAS). This latter document is often seen as a bit of a token gesture on small scale project like this, but we see it as an opportunity to explain the care we have taken in our design and the various options considered along the way.

Massing options considered during design development

We were successfully able to make a case to go against the planning officer's pre-planning advice to use a pitched roof —  it was a sensible suggestion and not one we rejected out of hand, but by careful analysis of the particular setting of this building we arrived at the conclusion that in this case, a pitched roof would not be the best way to go.

The end result will be a sensitively designed contemporary extension that extends the living space and amenities of the home without impinging on the neighbours or detracting from the proud character of the original house.

 

 

Our self-builder clients share hands-on experience

Thibaut Devulder
Appointing an architect has been one of the most valuable expenses of the project. I guess that it varies with the architecture practice you are working with, but for our project, 2hD have worked perfectly and have created a home totally adapted to our lifestyle and our constraints. Nothing to do with our original basic plans, nothing at all. Everything was taken into accounts: daylight, connections between the spaces, their volumes and their different levels...
Béranger Hau, client and self-builder for our Gabillou barn conversion project

Our client building the new staircase of the converted barn, using massive oak boards sourced from a local sawmill. 

With now ten years of experience as self-builder, transforming a old stone barn in Dordogne (France) into their dream home, our clients Béranger and Mélanie look back at their amazing achievements.

Over these years they have realised virtually all aspects of the building process themselves — from groundworks and water recycling system, to carpentry and furniture making. They have now decided to give back to the self-building community by sharing all their experience in a great article on their project blog (in French), touching on subjects as varied as project planning, finance and tips on how to not hurt your back on a building site...

2hD started to work as architects on this project as soon as Béranger and Mélanie purchased the run-down stone barn, back in 2006. And we have worked hand-in-hand with them ever-since: helping them define a solid project brief, developing sketch design alternatives, selecting adapted and affordable technical solutions, but also creating custom 3D models of the barn to guide them through the self-build construction process.

Amazingly attentive to details and quality, they are now proud owners of a stunning home, as well as experienced carpenters, plumbers, furniture makers and SketchUp 3D modellers! And they even received an award for their work...

Discussing the usefulness of working with architects in self-build projects, this is what our client Béranger has to say:

In the end, even if your project is not as large as ours and does not (legally) require an architect, we strongly advise you to appoint one. You will have all the drawings, and thus a definite vision of what your home can be. And this brings a lot in terms of motivation and anticipation.
Béranger Hau, client and self-builder for our Gabillou barn conversion project

You can read the full article on our client's project blog.

Rudsveien remodelling underway

Thibaut Devulder

Our remodelling and extension of a a family house in Bærum is progressing well, with the structures of the new garage and extension completed, and the new insulated cladding and windows installed. The interior spaces have also been opened up, starting to reveal how the interior spaces will key into one another and into the garden.

Portfolio project
Remodeling a family home in Bærum

Thibaut Devulder

We have just finalised the design for the remodeling and extension of a family house in Bærum, near Oslo. The detailed drawings package has now been sent to potential builders and, before construction starts this spring, we would like to share some of the ideas behind our design approach.

Sketch view of the redesigned home, approaching the new entrance

About our clients

Our clients, a young Norwegian couple with a toddler, had purchased a derelict detached house in the neighbourhood of Gjettum. The existing house had been divided into two rental apartments, one on each floor, connected by a shared entrance staircase.

Their plan was to merge these two floors into a single family home, where they would live and host frequent gatherings with their large extended family. The structure and footprint of the existing house was to remain mostly unchanged, but its fabric upgraded to meet modern environmental standards. Our clients were also considering the option of accommodating a rental apartment within the house, to create some additional income until they needed the whole house for their growing family

The existing house

The general feeling of the existing house was somewhat claustrophobic: the redundant spaces created by the two identical floor plans, the small cellular rooms and window-less corridors, the few oversized windows... All contributed to the impression of undersized spaces. A large garden surrounds the house but this was completely disconnected from the interior. It was also mostly spoiled by a garage and a long driveway to the south boundary of the site, which made the approach to the building unwelcoming.

Floor plans of the existing house (click for full view)

The existing house, viewed from the street approach

Our design strategy

An obvious solution would have been to extend the house to open up the main living spaces. However, as in many of our projects, we focussed on making the most of the existing building. Key to this approach was to reconnect the various living spaces — both interior and exterior — so that the different architectural functions could flow into one another.

Our design strategy, as presented to our clients during the sketch design phase. Drawn on top of the floor plan of the existing house (click for a full view)

Connecting the social spaces

Our first step was to move bedrooms to the upper floor, so that we could gather all social spaces on the ground floor, just a step away from the garden. We then removed a few internal walls to open two long perspectives across the whole ground floor. This created a close connection to the garden, making it both visible and easily accessible from all living spaces.

These spaces — where eating, relaxing and socialising take place — naturally organised themselves around these open lines, articulated by the existing staircase and a new wood stove. Each living space is designed with its own sense of scale and openness. Yet, it can be used as an extension of another, giving maximum flexibility both for everyday life and for the large social gatherings that our clients love to host.

The kitchen — the natural heart of the house for the family — is now placed at the very centre of this plan and is connected to all surrounding social spaces. A screen of open shelving wraps around the kitchen, to subtly shelter it and discretely accommodate storage, appliances and a study (that doubles as an accessible guest bedroom) on the north-east.

Opening up to the garden

Each of the living-rooms extends to the garden through large French doors: on the south-east, onto a large timber terrace stepping down to the main garden, and on the south-west to a more private terrace that opens the dining room to the evening sun. Since all windows had to be replaced, we took this opportunity to redesign many of the openings to the garden, drawing daylight from different directions in all spaces and carefully framing attractive views to the outdoors.

To the south, we created a new functional and welcoming entrance to the house that also accommodates an accessible modern bathroom. Both this small extension and the new garage (relocated closer to the access road) are designed with similar flat roof details and horizontal cladding, contrasting with the taller existing house. Together, they frame an attractive new approach to the house that echoes the traditional "tun" of Norwegian farmyards, under the dappled shade of newly planted cherry trees.

An overview of the ground floor in relation to the garden (click for full size)

The remodelled basement, with its separate rental apartment

The private spaces

A new family bathroom and four bedrooms are located on the upper floor. One of these rooms doubles up as a separate TV/play room, where extra guests can stay overnight.

The basement is also remodelled: two thirds of it are transformed into a comfortable self contained apartment, which will be rented out to tenants before becoming an integral part of the house for family guests and teenager children. The large new windows bring plenty of daylight into the space and the separate access to the north and landscaping create a small private garden for the tenants. The remaining space in the basement accommodates a large washroom, as well as the technical installations and storage.

Comfort and sustainability

As part of the remodeling, we upgraded the whole house to meet current energy conservation standards, externally insulating the fabric of the building and replacing the existing windows with highly insulated ones.

We also made the most of the panoramic wood stove on the ground floor by coupling it with a modern balanced ventilation system: diffusing the stove heat in the whole house — including the four bedrooms upstairs— we could design the house so that most of the heating needs would be provided by renewable firewood, while also keeping optimal indoor air quality.


A visit to the self-built barn

Tom Hughes

I was lucky enough to visit Béranger and Mélanie during the summer to see the progress they've made on the barn. It also turned out to be the day after they got married!

 Barn, home, labour of love, wedding venue... 

The exterior of the building, the main space, kitchen and master bedroom are completed with heroic attention to detail, leaving the upstairs bedrooms still to do. After a break in the internal works Béranger and Melanie plan to knuckle down again over the winter to see how much they can finish.

Casting a critical eye from the future study space. 

The existing roof timbers and stone walling are offset by contemporary insertions

The exterior shell retains its barn-like simplicity

You can follow progress on the project via our clients' blog, or check out our previous barn related posts. Congratulations to our clients on their dedication and sheer hard work... Good preparation for married life!  

Au revoir! 

Interior shots of self-build house

Thibaut Devulder

Our client and his family have now moved into their new self-build house on a hillside in Eidsvoll, Norway. Here are some early interior shots of the finished house.

Photo @ Caroline Prøven Brohaug, CABRO Photo

Porch complete

Tom Hughes

The Geze sliding door works like a charm and has appropriately minimal lines.

Our clients have sent us these pictures following the successful completion of their "porch that turns a house around".

The porch features a brick plinth that creates a seat within the space, and a superstructure made of standard sized galvanised steel channels. At the top of the structure, the channels form structural gutters which carry the rain away without the need for an overhang.

The overall effect is of a large three-sided window frame: one window faces the sky to allow natural light into the existing kitchen window, one holds the welcoming entrance door and the third frames views down the garden from the kitchen sink.

Simple looking projects are not always easy to complete, and the glazing contractor found it impossible to get the right door components from Geze UK for this one. However a couple of nicely worded emails to the uber efficient head office in Germany unlocked the supply chain and the key component eventually made it to site.

In place, the sliding door works like a charm and has appropriately minimal lines... Everyone happy in the end!

The upper channels are structural gutters, channeling water away without requiring an overhang.

The upper channels are structural gutters, channeling water away without requiring an overhang.

The porch has a brick plinth/seat with the main structure in galvanised steel. A high proportion of glass allows plenty of daylight in through the kitchen window and maintains views down the garden.

Low energy house shortlisted for architectural awards

Tom Hughes

We're very proud to say that the low energy house 2hD designed for a Nottinghamshire village has been shortlisted for an RIBA East Midlands 2014 award!

The annual awards celebrate architectural excellence in the region, and the New House in Maplebeck is one of just eleven projects on the shortlist.

Replacing a 1980s bungalow, the design of the house had to complement the Conservation Area setting whilst achieving extremely high performance as a “zero carbon in use” eco-home. Designed using the PassivHaus Planning Package and executed in a palette of brick, oak, slate and zinc, the house includes a central frameless glazing porch and open stair, an integrated balcony and an extensive built-in photovoltaic array.

The shortlisting is credit to a great client and consultant team, including:

Norwegian self-build house on site

Thibaut Devulder

The house in Eidsvoll we designed last year is nearing completion now.

Our self-builder client has been hard at work finishing the house's timber frame (all using pre-cut I-joists), now well insulated with blown-in cellulose insulation.

The cladding of the facades is also underway, using wood shingles made of untreated malmfuru, a species of local pine grown slowly in the Norwegian mountains, which is rich in heart wood and naturally resistant to weather.

The family is planning to move in later this summer.

Portfolio project
Self-build house on a Norwegian hillside

Thibaut Devulder

The single-family house we designed on a hillside of Eidsvoll, in Norway, is now under construction by our self-builder client. Created as two wings intersecting with the landscape, the design reconciled our clients' wishes for both discrete privacy and openness to the surrounding woodlands.

Sketch impression of the house with its two intersecting wings, from which the terraces cascade into the forest

Moving out of their current undersized house in the same town, the family wanted to settle on one of the plots owned by the family (we helped the client masterplan this area back in 2011). The plot is situated on an ideally oriented hillside with woodlands at its doorstep and great views to the surrounding countryside.

We designed the family house to clearly separate public spaces receiving visitors (including a small home office) and the more private parts of the house. These two realms are organised in separate wings, articulated by two intersecting gables. At this intersection, an open atrium links the two levels and a sheltered outdoor porch opens up towards the adjacent woodlands to the south-west, stepping down into the landscape through a series of cascading terraces.

Interior view of the atrium, at the intersection of the two wings (Photo @ Caroline Prøven Brohaug)

The external form of the house also responded to the height restrictions of the local planning rules and the steep site slope. Despite the site steepness, the house benefits from a full wheelchair access to all key functions of the home.

Privacy from the existing neighbouring apartment building (also owned by the client) was preserved by vertical timber fins along the facade, framing the views and giving a common vocabulary to the different elevations.

Foundation and groundworks are almost completed and the timber superstructure (insulated with natural cellulose fibres) will be completed before the first snow, at the end of November.


Portfolio project
Porch that turns a house around

Tom Hughes

We've been working on the remodelling and extension of a Suffolk cottage for some time now — starting with our 2009 RIBA award winning artist's studio. An internal reworking of the ground floor has improved circulation, usable space and natural lighting.

The final element is now on site: a glass and steel porch at the back door will create a generous welcome space and energy-saving draft lobby.

We often find with existing houses that the 'back door' is in fact the main access for family, guests and deliveries alike, and a decision has to be made: reinstate the status of the front door, or accept the established usage and make the back door a decent point of arrival?

In this case the 1980s flat roofed 'garden room' extension to the rear of the house - with improved windows and insulation - has become the main area for entertaining guests; the new porch will turn the house around and connect it all back together.

Portfolio project
Walker House remodel

Thibaut Devulder

The existing house

Our clients are now finalising the site work on our remodel of their home in Eidsvoll, Norway.

We were originally approached by the clients in 2011, to reorganise a family house that has become overcrowded for their family of five and — more importantly — to create a modern comfortable home they would be proud of.

The clients' brief

The model of the surveyed house

Already extended once, this house was in fact spacious enough for the family. Yet the existing layout made poor use of the internal space: stiffly compartmenting into disconnected rooms, the floor plans created several "dead areas" on key locations of the three levels, which were mostly left unused by its inoccupants or barely used for storage.

The existing services were obsolete and poorly placed — with no bathroom on the ground floor for instance — and the clients were eager to upgrade the building fabric and technical installations as part of the remodelling exercise. Summer overheating and noise from the increasing overhead airport traffic were particularly problematic.

Conscious that their three teenage sons would be soon leaving the family home, the parents were also willing to remodel the house so that the upper floor could easily be isolated from their accessible quarters on the ground floor in the coming years, to be rented out to tenants with minimum additional work.

All these had to be address with minimum alterations to the exterior of the building, to fit the budget and the local planning rules.

Unlocking the flow

After a detailed survey of the existing house, we identified key factors breaking the flow through the house. These were tackled by a series of strategic moves that could unlock the potential of the space in a cost effective way. At the core of the approach was to clarify the organisation of public and private spaces, and how these flowed into one another.

A few key changes to the internal building fabric allowed us to both connect the spaces for greater flexibility in use (to host large family events, for instance) and respond to the need for privacy between the different parts of the house.

 Creating an experience

Altering the floor plans was the first move to transform this home. We extended this approach to carefully select interior materials and light fittings, to suggest and emphasize the new relationships between the spaces.

Entering the house, the visitor is drawn further into the spaces by a series of focal points revealing themselves progressively from different viewpoints as the house is explored, linking the social spaces and the large garden outdoors.

Improving comfort

The timber structure was fully re-insulated internally, using high density natural wood fibre insulation to improve all year round thermal comfort and dampen external noise. Comfort was further improved by replacing the existing windows with hi-spec new low-energy and noise reduction glazing.

With minimal changes to the existing drainage system, two new family bathrooms and a guest toilet were added to the ground and first floors. Connected to a new centralised ventilation system, they dramatically improve indoor air quality in a quiet and energy efficient way.

Working in close collaboration with the clients, with their in-depth knowledge of every corner of the house and the way it was constructed, allowed very detailed design and planning of all the alterations, while keeping building costs low.

Low energy house, high quality space

Tom Hughes

Over the bank holiday I dropped in to see how the clients for our low energy house are getting on. They've been in residence for a good few months now and it was great to see the house in operation as a home.

The property is going to be open to visitors as part of the programme of tours arranged during September 2013 by West Bridgford Eco Houses- if you want to visit check out their blog post about the house.

All the energy saving features are behaving well, although it is too early yet to get statistical feedback on performance. The basic principle is to make good use of passive solar gains from the south and trap the heat in the the high thermal mass of the building, inside a highly insulated jacket. Overheating is prevented by the thermal mass, which evens out temperature highs and lows, and by effective use of shading on the south facing windows. The other important factor is to control drafts, and the build quality here is exceptionally good.

The really gratifying thing to see was that the house is working well as a home for our clients- it's clearly a comfortable, welcoming and relaxed place to live.

Deep in the Forest of Acro

Thibaut Devulder

We've given you a clear idea about your destination, and working with the builder, engineer and others we've mapped out a route to get you there. But when embarking on a remodelling project there's often no way round the forest of 'acrow props' that will temporarily invade your space.

This cottage remodel will open up three poky little rooms into a decent living space and connected kitchen. Opening up space like this can transform a house but the joys of open plan living can quickly die if it's not right for your lifestyle- we always try to balance the breathing space and light created by larger spaces with the functionality and feeling of security offered by cellular rooms. This approach brings out the best in existing buildings and delivers spaces that meet our client's needs.

Invented in 1935 by a Swiss engineer, the Acrow Prop provides adjustable temporary support for the existing structure while new elements such as beams and coloumns are inserted. Their appearance signals a major advance in the project, but the Forest of Acrow can seem a gloomy and threatening place too. Things get more complex by the day, the route can be hard to see and final destination feels further away than ever. Time to look at those visualisations again and keep moving forward- end results like this will be worth it!