Contemporary Green Home in London By SHH
Architects and designers SHH have completed a new-build £1.1m house in North London for private clients, which seeks to go beyond the legal requirements for green and energy-saving technologies in new-build properties and to embody the best in stylish but eco-friendly contemporary housing solutions. Photography by Francesa Yorke.
SHH’s clients originally purchased an existing property on a 1960s North London estate, prior to obtaining planning permission to create the open, spacious and eco-friendly family home they envisioned. SHH were brought on board after the clients saw several of the company’s residential projects in the Hampstead area and, in particular, their Pilgrim’s Lane house (a RIBA Manser Medal finalist project). The architects went on to create the blueprint for a 3,000 sq ft three-storey home and, in spite of the Conservation Area restrictions, the scheme gained full approval from the local authorities, partly because the proposed new replacement building boasted so many green elements and technologies, incorporated both at the client’s behest and SHH’s suggestion. These included solar panels to heat water; a geo-thermal heat pump with boreholes, which uses the natural underground earth temperature (of approximately 10-12°) both to heat and cool the house; a rainwater harvesting system, which reuses water for irrigation and WC flushing; improved building fabric U-values (exceeding current regulations); energy-efficient lighting and a cedar terrace deck with sedum planting around the perimeter.
The brief for the scheme was to create the ideal family home for a couple (with two young children), who had always wanted to have a home built from scratch to answer their precise needs. The interior was to be open and light with clean lines and lots of storage, so that the house could be clutter-free. Open spaces were to enhance the flow of family life, integrating all activities and family members together. Large window and door openings along with a substantial lightwell at lower-ground level would bring as much daylight inside the house as possible.
The external look of the house mimics the previous home to a degree in terms of the division of façades, in order to blend in with the surrounding homes. Like the previous property, it also has a sloping roof, although the new house’s roof slopes in the opposite direction from the original house in order to maximise south-facing rear glazing. The external skin of the steel-framed house is built out of lightweight, Thermalite aeriated concrete blocks with high-performance insulation, with the resulting cavity wall construction creating extremely good ‘U’ values. The walls are finished at low level with high-quality, white, thin-layer render (with the colour integrated into the render rather than being added as a surface). Custom-cut cedar cladding from renewable sources is used at first floor level over the concrete blocks, with solid hardwood windows (in iroko) and matching balustrades to the flat roof terraced area. The window frames are stained but will also age naturally as the iroko matures. All the double glazing on the scheme uses high quality argon-filled units to prevent heat loss. The whole sloping roof (eaves, soffit and top layer) is finished in powder-coated aluminium to prevent rust, with two inset 3m x 900mm solar panels on the rear elevation to soak in maximum sunlight.
The front approach to the house is as open and visible as possible, whilst the rear of the house is enclosed for maximum privacy and security, so that the client’s children can have a completely safe and bordered area to play in. The front door is cedar-clad, following the pattern of the two different woods used throughout, which combine well together.
The house is arranged over three storeys. A basement floor (where piling was needed because of soft ground and also in order to work around two existing 150-year old protected oak trees) incorporates a plant room, wine room, utility room, an ensuite staff flat with bed and shower room (with dedicated access) and under-stair storage.
The ground floor is mostly completely open with living, dining and kitchen areas in one seamless L-shaped area, with a small cloakroom, study and children’s playroom taking up the remainder of the floorplate, leading off a double-height entrance space. The smaller ‘dog leg’ section is a lounge space featuring a state-of-the-art gas fireplace by Geoflame, with a slate cladding surround (from Solus Ceramics). The longer section of the space includes a dining zone and a kitchen area with a large central island, created according to SHH’s space plans by kitchen specialists ‘Alternative Plan’.
The rooflight above the bespoke unit is exactly the same size for perfect symmetry and lighting. Flooring throughout the main spaces is in engineered oak. The open plan rear elevation faces out onto external decking and a garden (created by Chelsea Flower Show double-gold medallist garden designer Kate Gould), with three sets of full-height, four-panel bespoke fold-back doors allowing for maximum indoor/outdoor overlap (and also enabling the clients to see where their children are at all times!), with the whole structure having to be built over and around the roots of the two oak trees. A bespoke dining table by Konig Bespokeallows the family to eat or entertain outdoors when the weather permits. The garden design reflects the simplicity and minimalism of the house itself with bamboo providing screening from neighbouring properties throughout the year. It was also designed to be as low maintenance as possible. The clients already had a few pieces of sculpture, but also commissioned a bespoke torso sculpture from sculptor Janet Haig, which takes centre stage in the garden and is a key feature when lit at night.
From the internal ground floor, an engineered oak timber open-tread steel staircase, with a frameless glass balustrade with sleek steel stringers, leads up to the first floor, tying in with the oak used for the flooring. On this level are two children’s bedrooms and a family bathroom, as well as to the master bedroom and ensuite bathroom (complete with a hydro massage tub), with french doors in the same treatment as on the ground floor plus a glass balustrade allowing views down onto the rear garden – all set beneath the curved, powder-coated, standing seam roof. At the client’s request, the master bedroom ceiling is painted in silver – the only concession to colour within the all-white wall and ceiling treatment! The two smaller bedrooms lead out onto the flat roof terrace with perimeter sedum planting and a cedar balustrade set within an iroko frame, with a large inset rooflight providing light to the kitchen below.