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A family home in the Witchcliffe Ecovillage, with a comfortable relaxed aesthetic that achieves an 8 star energy rating.

The seeds for the design were the owner's desire to incorporate rendered strawbale or hempcrete walls and to have a large main room with exposed timber trusses and raking ceilings.

After preliminary costings with builder Moss Johnson, strawbale was selected as the preferred material. It turned out to be significantly more economical whilst delivering excellent sustainable characteristics of high insulative value, low toxicity and breathability.

The strawbale walls form part of the front elevation, and run down the main corridor, ensuring this tactile material is used to maximum effect and experienced as one moves through the entire house. Rendered strawbale also forms the eastern and western walls of the main living area. Deep reveals, timber sills and exposed timber lintels add to the warm and textured feel of the room.

A key part of the plan is its northern orientation, and in particular the central north facing courtyard. It provides a sheltered outdoor 'room', protected from strong south westerly winds whilst still receiving lots of natural light. The kitchen opens onto this courtyard via large sliding glass doors; a minimal threshold between interior kitchen and exterior outdoor dining will make for easy regular access.

The main living area has large exposed timber roof trusses, with a raking lime-washed pine ceiling over. The room is orientated to take full advantage of all the benefits of the site; the northern face of this main room is majority full height glazing, allowing for maximum solar access to heat the room and the exposed concrete slab. Along with the perimeter 350mm thick strawbale walls, this ensure the space will be comfortable all year round; in fact on the coldest winter day, temperature simulations show that we could achieve an internal temperature of 20 degrees without heating, whilst the outside temperature fluctuates between 9-13 degrees.

The eastern face of the main living room opens onto a verandah and the community garden beyond, creating another sheltered outdoor space with a pleasant outlook. The verandah structure - large timber beams and posts - reads as a continuation of the internal timber structure, reinforcing the link between interior and exterior spaces.

The study, sheltered under this verandah, has a window seat beneath a circular window. This secluded, cosy spot will have an enviable view overlooking the gardens. The Owner was very specific about the inclusion of having such a space to retreat to, to read and relax, and great care and attention was taken to bring her vision to life.

The overall approach was to create a comfortable family home in the full sense of the word: generous, thoughtful spaces; evocative use of materials, shapes and textures; sustainable and low toxicity materials, and integrated principles of passive solar design.


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