Kentish New House


Carl Elefante, former president of the American Institute of Architects, is credited with saying ‘The greenest building is the one that already exists’.  But what if the existing building really has had its day, and is just too worn out?

In this instance, the existing house was very linear in plan, having space wasted by the dark, central long corridor.  Being around 90 years old, it suffered from construction that was poorly insulated, the electrical and plumbing installations needed replacing, and there was damp in a number of areas.  Whilst troublesome, all of these things could perhaps have been addressed – we do that all the time.  However, add to this that both ends of the existing house were suffering from significant subsidence, and the balance appeared truly tipped.

Whilst we don’t like to knock buildings down, in this instance, it made sense.  There was simply too much wrong with it.

We were engaged in 2019 to develop the brief and prepare designs for a new five-bedroom house, to be contemporary in appearance, and to meet the various needs of the family.  Constraints included the site location within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, within the Green Belt, and adjacent to Ancient Woodland.  It also lies close to an historic, Listed Building, and there were various ecological aspects to address to ensure Protected Species remained protected.

The new house is located on the site of the existing, but the new floor plan is square, being far more efficient than the linear house it replaces; the square footprint is efficient both in terms of accessing all spaces easily, but also in reducing the amount of external envelope through which heat can escape.    It is designed as two distinct elements, separated by a glazed central hall on an east-west axis.  The glazed double-height hall allows the morning and evening sun to enter the heart of the home whilst the main living wing shields the hall from the hotter southern midday sun.  By allowing high levels of natural light to permeate the heart of the home there will be a significant reduction in reliance on artificial light and heat, whilst ensuring a warm, bright heart to the home.  Arranging the principle living areas along the southern side of the house takes advantage of the sunlight for light and warmth, whilst the ‘service’ areas at ground floor are located on the northern side of the house, with less-used guest accommodation above.  It will also mean the house will stay cooler in summer if these heat-generating service areas are located on the cooler side of the house.

Ensuring the building is well-designed, well-specified, and well-constructed, is the best way to reduce its impact upon the environment.  The home will also utilise passive solar design, and the stack effect; designed with high levels of glazing to utilise solar gain for warming the home whilst allowing abundant natural light to reduce dependence on artificial lighting, the proposal also uses thermal mass to absorb excess heat gain in the summer. The central hall with glazed roof will enable a ‘stack’ effect to draw cool air in at low-level, and allow warmer, staler air to rise and be expelled at the top of the building via naturally occurring air currents.  This will encourage natural ventilation of the house, all of which will reduce energy demand.  It will also be provided with a ground source heat pump (boreholes), and photo-voltaic panels.

Demolition completed October/November 2021

Construction commenced 22 November 2021

Due for completion May 2023