Contemporary oak framed home in sympathy with Cotswolds Conservation setting

Oak Frame Building Costs

Area: Gloucestershire
House Type: Contemporary
House Size: 435m2
Finance: Private
Build Cost: £620,000

A contemporary oak house design with strong sustainable features in the Cotswolds 

The Walled Garden is a contemporary style oak frame house with strong sustainable design features built in the former walled kitchen garden of an eighteenth century Gothic Revival country house. A high brick and stone wall surrounds the garden and provides privacy for the unique waterside setting of the house.

The architectural design of the house is heavily influenced by its setting in the Uley Conservation Area in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Securing planning consent presented a series of challenges that took some considerable while. Our initial plan was to remodel and extend an existing bungalow on the site, but that was effectively restricted to the scale of an existing planning consent.

Thinking laterally, we first got confirmation from the planning authority that the key concern was external volume. Plan B (always good to have a Plan B!) then developed, placing the new house at a lower position on the site, adjacent to one of the large ponds at the centre of the original walled garden. We came up with a plan to sink the rear of the ground floor into the slope running down from the brick boundary wall to the pond. This meant that we could achieve a much larger house internally within the constraints on external volume.

Careful placing of store room, plant room and shower room at the rear of the ground floor allowed space to be maximised. Design moved forward by aligning a faceted living room with the curve of the pond, to make the most of the waterside setting and by pushing the rear of the building towards the back of the site. This naturally developed into the distinctive shape of the eventual house, with single storey living room, study and kitchen at the front taking with a strong waterside character with large windows allowing reflections of ripples from the pond to cast onto the ceiling of the living space. The two storey part of the house including five bedrooms, a gym, breakfast room and playroom are joined to the living room by a large hall and stairway, one of the most distinctive features of the design.

An oak frame focus 

An oak frame was an early aspiration. Setting the house into the slope meant a basement construction at the rear of the ground floor. In search of a high performance solution we looked at available prefabricated basement systems rather than build an in situ basement envelope. Kastell, a German supplier, were chosen to build the slab and the basement system.

With the inclusion of the basement and the contemporary design, this was always going to be a hybrid build. Finding an oak frame specialist with the right approach was perhaps more of a challenge than we expected. After a false start with another supplier, we spoke to Tim Crump and John Williams and very quickly found a willingness to come up with a contemporary oak frame.

Securing planning consent had further twists and turns to negotiate. Feeling reasonably confident with a detailed case officer report to the planning committee recommending that planning consent be granted, we were presented at the last minute with exactly the same detailed report but with a changed conclusion recommending refusal, the draft report having been reviewed by the senior planning officer. The issue turned on the interpretation of the planning authorities own policy which seemed to have been given a very particular interpretation by the senior planning officer.

A very active and anxious period followed with some direct lobbying of the planning committee and a clear strategy that might form the basis at an appeal put together. On the day of the planning committee meeting it was in fact the very strong sustainable building features of the project that carried the day with the Members and planning consent was granted, notwithstanding the recommendation to refuse consent. Persistence does pay!

Thermal efficiency 

The house incorporates both passive and active eco features. Solar orientation is one of the most significant passive ways in which a house can improve its eco credentials. The house and significant areas of glass face south, creating the potential for making use of free heat energy from the sun. To optimise this, the house is set so that the low winter sun warms the full depth of the living room, but in the summer, there is no overheating as the sun, high in the sky does not reach far into the living room.

Set into the slope the house benefits from earth sheltering to the northern side, the point at which exposure to the elements would have the most adverse impact on thermal performance. The house has significant thermal mass from exposed fair faced concrete to internal walls and ceilings to the ground floor so that warmth is retained in winter and the house remains cool in summer. Skylights to the living room and kitchen incorporate highly insulative nanogel and demonstrate their capability by retaining un-melted snow as long as the surrounding insulated roof.

Timber frame insulation 

 Insulation levels are high with a combination of natural cellulose insulation and sheep’s wool, both of which help the house to breathe and provide a healthy atmosphere. A healthy environment was important and material selection plays a key part here. There are no fitted carpets that harbour dust. The ground floor is floored in natural linoleum and the first floor in engineered oak.

One of the most obvious features are the green roofs over the sitting room and kitchen. Green roofs provide added insulation and attenuate the rate of rainfall run off. Particularly valuable in keeping the building cool in summer, the sedum flowers help to blend the house with the garden.

Heating is provided by a biomass boiler that uses sustainable wood pellets fed automatically from a hopper, providing carbon neutral underfloor heating at a fraction of a the cost of oil. There are also two contemporary wood burner stoves that work alongside the buildings thermal mass continuing the theme design features working together. In the summer hot water comes from an air to water heat pump that takes spare heat from the interior of the house, returning cooled air, this providing free air conditioning. A heat recovery system is linked to the extract system which also has the ability to deliver filtered cool fresh air from the northern side of the building to the first floor.

Oakwrights bring it all together

A rainwater recovery system provides water for flushing toilets and also naturally soft rainwater for the washing machine.“The walls and the oak frame are clad externally with untreated Siberian larch, a remarkably resilient timber that matches the predicted lifespan of oak and weathers similarly to blend the house into the landscape. The Oakwrights team were instrumental in enabling us to bring all of this together, proving that oak frame can be effectively combined with other techniques to provide an innovative contemporary design. We project managed the scheme ourselves. Having used a prefabricated basement system, we knew that the temporary hard standing was well consolidated before the Oakwrights crane arrived on site. Chappell and Dix were our contractors for the completion of the project after the frame was erected who picked up the project seamlessly from completion of the frame.”

Read about Oakwrights Turnkey Build Service here


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