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25th October 2011 / posted by AndrewEnsor

Design Day Out 2011 (Celebrating h.Energy Week)

Once a year we like to organise a day, for our design studio team to get out and stimulate their brain cells; to see some of our finished projects and what other designers are doing. Design is of great importance to Oakwrights, and like any creative subject, it is a collaborative discipline. We draw influences from what we see and hear, and what better way to encourage this than to get out there and soak it up! Julian Pilkington (one of our longstanding design team members) volunteered to organise our itinerary, and pieced together a good variety of subjects for our tour, from recent to progressive and from old to new. And all to fit in with h.Energy week!

design day out

8am in the Oakwrights minibus and young George Pilkington (Julian's son) is ready to lead the way as Design Team Mascot!

First on our agenda was a recent local self-build project designed by John Williams (one of our architectural designers) and the aforementioned Julian (of organising duties). The owner, Sally Budd, was kind enough to invite us all in and give us a tour so we could see the almost-finished article. It is so important for us to keep in touch with our projects along the line to encourage feedback and inform future designs, and learn from our experience. Sally’s project was a traditional build at first floor level, and WrightWall Light at ground floor level.

The Oakwrights' designers on the approach to Sally Budd's 'almost finished article'.

The Oakwrights' designers on the approach to Sally Budd's 'almost finished article'.

It was great to hear first-hand experience from one of our clients, who like many, are tackling a self-build project for the first time.

“Because this was the first house we’d done, we wanted to play it on the safe side, and do everything right.” Sally told us.

Her meticulous attitude can be seen right the way through to all the finishes. “It was very encouraging that every time the building inspector visited he would say ‘it’s going to be a nice house!’”.

Sally also expressed her concern in ensuring the final air-tightness of the building was up to scratch. At Oakwrights we design the WrightWall panels to a high level of air-tightness, but without the correct supervision, the air-tightness layer could be pierced by other contractors. It was very rewarding to see the final product of many months labour coming to fruition, and Sally’s project is a great success story.

Arrival at Seed Homes headquarters in Pembridge

Arrival at Seed Homes headquarters in Pembridge (not far from the pub now).

the wonderful Architype offices just North of Aconbury Woods.

And onwards to the wonderful Architype offices just North of Aconbury Woods.

Second on the itinerary were the eco-offices of local architects, Architype. Architype specialise in environmentally sensitive design and have recently produced the first UK school to Passivhaus standards, the highest environmental standards in Europe. To the surprise of many, they completed the project within a regular public funding budget, demonstrating their ethos that sustainable design is not about hi-tech gadgetry, but good design and insulation. They explained their ideas about orientation, solar gain, lighting, ventilation and ‘cradle-to-grave’ consideration of all the elements of their designs.

The Architype office was part of ‘Herefordshire Energy Week’, which encourages the promotion of low-energy living in our county. Also part of the h-Energy Week collective, a new company called Seed Homes. Having sprouted up recently, they have developed a design for prefabricated, low-energy and affordable homes for first-time buyers. Designed to be made of sustainable, locally grown, natural products the Seed House has been carefully considered to make sustainability accessible to the wider market. Peter Lawley of Seed Homes showed us round the demonstration exhibit, and answered all our questions. He explained the issues and solutions they had to come up with in developing their wall construction. We have been recently working our ‘WrightWall’ system in the office, so we could relate to a lot of his struggles, in the search for the holy-grail of eco-wall build-ups.

With three visits down and one to go, we stopped off at the New Inn at Pembirdge for a hearty Ploughman’s Lunch (a favourite in the design studio)!

Post Ploughman's Lunch - A well-fed oakwrights team.

Post Ploughman's Lunch - A well-fed pub team.

Then it was off into Shropshire, to Stokesay Castle, for our final visit of the day. The great hall and ‘three-way’ jettied chamber in the north tower, are just some examples of the beautifully ornamented framework, and wooden panelling that are on show to visitors at this English Heritage site. We marvelled at the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the medieval craftsman who would have raised those frames by simple levers and sheer manpower. While technology has allowed us to work more efficiently, the simple design of frame jointed building has stood the test of time and remained the same for centuries. It is amazing to think that perhaps some of our frames will be admired by future designers and carpenters in the centuries to come.

We had a very stimulating day out, and very social too, it’s good to get back to the office full of vision for what we’re doing.

A farewell from the grounds of Stokesay Castle

A farewell from the grounds of Stokesay Castle. Until next year...




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