Renergising visit to the low energy house

Tom Hughes
The New House, Maplebeck

The New House, Maplebeck

I visited the North Nottinghamshire village of Maplebeck today with a group of 1st year students architecture from Nottingham Trent University. We were there to visit the New House, as guests of 2hD's wonderful clients Roger and Sue Bell. The students also visited the new Maplebeck village hall by Marsh Growchowski Architects and the nearby Hockerton Housing Project.

The students are learning about sustainable building design as part of their first year technical studies, so these three real-world low energy projects will be a boost to their understanding. For me personally it was great to return to Maplebeck and hear how well the house is working and how happy Roger and Sue are with the design. As the sun came out during the day we watched as the solar array pumped out nearly 7Kw of electricity, meeting the house's tiny energy demands with ease, charging the Tesla battery and exporting the excess to the National Grid.

Perhaps the only sad point of the day was to reflect on how unusual low energy housing still is considered in the UK. When I was taught as an undergraduate student in the early 1990s by Brenda & Robert Vale, they were completing their own house in Southwell, itself the culmination of research dating back to their 1975 publication "The Autonomous House". Four decades after that book, and a quarter century after the autonomous house in Southwell, we are still looking to the NEXT generation of architects, builders and developers to make sustainable housing the norm rather than the exception.

Let's hope today's visit has inspired some of the NTU students to integrate sustainable principles seamlessly into their creative processes!

Kudos to Roger and Sue for hosting us, to Derek Sayer of the Maplebeck Village Hall committee for tours of that building and to Chris Marsh, my NTU colleague for arranging the visit.

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:

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.

Portfolio project
A low-energy house in a conservation area

Tom Hughes

Replacing a 1980s bungalow on an infill site in a Nottinghamshire village, the design of this 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 south facade, designed to maximise winter solar gains while providing shading in summer, . Photovoltaic panels and rooflights are integrated into the slate roof.

Our client required a contemporary home that could be built to achieve extremely high energy performance in use. Their site was carefully selected within a characterful village setting, approached from the main village street to the North and having a good southerly aspect for solar collection. Alongside the development of our client’s brief and requirements, we carried out a careful analysis of the village layout and the materials and massing of surrounding buildings.

The house has performed well and we are very happy with its aesthetics, comfort and technical performance. It blends in well with the village despite being obviously modern. Many passers by stop to enquire and pass comment on the house, usually very favourably. We often see cars slowing down in the road outside, almost stopping to catch a second glance.

All the energy bills for the first year of occupation, plus the running of an electric car and water rates, were covered by the return from the solar panels, leaving us only Council Tax to pay!
Roger Bell, client

In a sensitive planning context the design was developed in close consultation with the local planners and community, documented through an in-depth Design and Access Statement. The delicate balance between achieving PassivHaus design targets and satisfying Conservation Area planning requirements meant that the design was evolved and presented in various contexts. A consultation on site in the existing bungalow saw a 20% turnout of the village giving unanimous support for the scheme.

The design uses the north facade to address the village setting and large windows and solar roof to the south to maximise useful solar gain and collection. The requirement to reduce north facing glazing to meet PassivHaus design targets is offset by the provision of a frameless-glazed porch, which prevents the escape of warm air whilst providing an open welcome to visitors.

The North facade and street front, a contemporary response to the surrounding buildings of the Conservation Area.

The smaller windows and variegated massing on this side of the house respond to the scale of the village, whilst the private rear of the house presents a single expanse of roof for solar collection, free of any self-shading projections. An integrated system of flush-fitting photovoltaic panels and rooflights was selected to create a smoothly integrated roofscape. Excess heat gain is controlled by the use of integrated external louvre blinds to the large sliding glass doors on the south elevation.

The integrity of the design is maintained by the simple palette of materials: red brick, oak cladding and beams, slate roofs. A small area of zinc roofing over the glazed porch expresses the articulation of the house plan around the double-height circulation zone.

This project was shortlisted in the 2014 RIBA East Midlands Awards.

Design overview (click to enlarge).

Project credits

Contractor: Nick Martin with Branch Construction
Executive architect: Parsons + Whittley

Low energy house nearing completion

Tom Hughes

It's great to see our house design in a North Nottinghamshire village beginning to emerge, fully formed on site. The oak, brick, slate and zinc materials palette is looking good... But most of all, this project demonstrates that low energy housing can be built even in sensitive planning contexts.

Update: The building is finished and occupied. See our portfolio piece for the latest.

Low energy house nearing completion

We designed the house, in its village conservation area setting, using the PassivHaus Planning Package, a method that uses tried-and-tested approaches to reducing energy use in buildings. Now the house is nearing completion under executive architects Parsons + Whittley and builder Nick Martin of Hockerton Housing Project fame — testament to a dedicated client and team.

New build house using the PassivHaus Planning Package

Tom Hughes

We're designing a new build house for a village in Nottinghamshire, using the PassivHaus Planning Package (PHPP) as a design tool.

The site has an excellent orientation, allowing extensive use of passive and active solar collection to the rear of the property. The north, street-facing facade has been developed to respond sensitively to its Conservation Area setting.

The project is currently going through consultation with the village residents and Local Authority planning department prior to the submission of a planning application.