A fascinating and appropriate journey has taken place on a former village car park in Chewton Mendip, Somerset. It has seen a dusty corner site evolve from a little used 10 parking space eyesore, to the location for a curving terrace of three homes. They have been built to attain standards that exceed those demanded by PassivHaus for energy consumption and also include other features that respond to important ‘green’ issues. Arthur Bland and David Hayhow provide us with the builder’s and architect’s perspectives.
This is a six page article. First published in June 2009
The site is inside the Mendip Hills AONB and so part of a village conservation area. Any design by the architect, David Hayhow, was therefore tied to materials and appearance that fitted into the narrow vision of ‘appropriate development’ demanded by the local planning authority (LPA). Forced down a narrow alley, that resulted in the houses having to imitate the surrounding dwellings, the challenge became to build according to contemporary issues of energy and water consumption, without making it clear that this was the cornerstone of the project. The LPA left no practical room for negotiation over the appearance or outline plan of the houses so having been effectively relieved of decision making concerning appearance, the choice was either to resist the LPA, and risk a refusal on the site, or concentrate on achieving the aims of the project despite, rather than because of, the LPA. Stone and render facing, slate roofs and traditional timber windows are not usually seen as a starting place for the design and build of a house that has a heating demand of 7.55kWh/m2/year. But in this case, an attention to detail and thorough research about the currently available building techniques and technologies has resulted in a whole much greater than the sum of the parts. A simple philosophy of, doing the best possible in the specific circumstances, informed all the site choices as the development strove to achieve the lowest possible environmental and carbon consequence against a realistic budget.
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