John Williams describes events:
My first meeting with Dominic & Zena took place in February 2012. Piers Butler and I paid them a visit at their recently purchased bungalow near Ashbourne, to discuss the design of a replacement dwelling for the site.
It became clear very early on at that first meeting, as we sat talking in the conservatory extension of the original bungalow, that Dominic and Zena wanted their new self-build timber house to have a better relationship with the surrounding grounds and countryside. One problem that can often arise with bungalows comes due to the fact that they are often designed with enclosed entrance hallways, off which all the other rooms radiate. Ground floor bedrooms compete with the living rooms for the precious views and natural light.
Seeing what hasn't worked in an existing property can quickly focus the conversation on what the new Oakwrights oak frame house design needs to achieve. For Dominic and Zena, their new house needed to have a layout that would allow them to have a more open plan living area, with one space flowing into another and light and views from many angles. This was particularly important given the constraints of the site that slopes down from South to North and that is narrow across its East / West axis.
Moving the bedrooms upstairs, creating a two-storey design, enabled the ground floor layout to be open and light. However, it is never a foregone conclusion that the planners will accept the replacement of a bungalow with a two-storey scheme. So it was great to receive positive feedback to our early draft designs from the local planning officer. Having negotiated the increase in size and volume, it soon became clear that a far stickier problem needed to be overcome, arising from the discovery of a rare species of bat in the existing bungalow roof.
The bat mitigation process involved the construction of a separate outbuilding to house them in that roof space, using materials from the original construct. Once the new home for the bats had been agreed, Dominic and Zena were then able to focus on the details of their new home.
Dominic Dent's perspective:
We were both been keen on building a house and had been looking for many years to find the right plot and location, and it was on a cold October evening in 2011 that we found this plot and decided that it was what we were looking for. The old bungalow was cold, drafty, damp and had a structural problem so was an ideal candidate for demolition and new build.
We had for some time been looking at oak framed buildings and had been enthused by the designs we had seen on Grand Designs and from visiting many of the framing companies. It was on one of these Show visits that we met Oakwrights; from there we visited their show home and that helped us choose them as our preferred supplier. We were particularly interested in the high insulation properties of the WrightWall Natural encapsulation system and the overall ‘System’ approach they were developing between the frame and the encapsulation.
The whole design process was well controlled and working with the team was pleasing with design changes being made without delay. Come the day of construction, the team where on site at 7:30am waiting to marshal the crane into position and start unloading the articulated lorry and the tonnes of oak beams and posts. Surprisingly by the end of the first day the ground floor was complete and the second floor construction was starting.
Like any new build, particularly when the design is unique, there are issues and challenges to resolve and Oakwrights responded to these without question or hesitation, revisiting site several time when these issues presented themselves. Throughout the whole process, working with Oakwrights has been pleasing and far from stressful.