Briefed with creating a family home within a woodland setting, Elliott Architects were challenged with environmental considerations that were an inseparable part of the design process.
When their clients fell in love with a beautiful site on the outskirts of the market town of Morpeth, Elliott Architects found themselves a wonderfully challenging project. Steeply sloping and edged by woodland, the brief was to create a family home sympathetic to the setting whilst embodying the excitement of a magical woodland hideaway.
Elliott’s finished design is a building that adapts to the sites contours, with arrival separated from the private south facing kitchen-terrace, and the garden to the north exploiting the only flat section of the site. With an intentionally rich palette of materials like a Thomas Bewick woodcut or the woodland texture around it, the building is made of different grains and surfaces, natural but under precise control with slate shingle cladding to the lower sections and timber above.
The cruciform arrangement divides the site into areas of varying privacy and the material treatments give the appearance of a series of single-storey volumes, reducing the impact on the site whilst creating a playful relationship; slate and brick belong to the earth while the timber elements are of the woods and sky, like a treehouse floating above.
Environmental considerations were a fundamental and inseparable part of the design process, and can be seen throughout the scheme. The approach to sustainability was to use simple principles of natural ventilation, high levels of insulation and robust materials specifications from sustainable sources.
Many of the materials used were recyclable, and the idea of a natural cedar finish demonstrates the inseparable nature of environmental considerations from the design process. This material creates a lightness as a contrast to the masonry of the concrete plinths and brick walls. Underfloor heating is used in the ground floor spaces in order to utilise the thermal mass of the polished concrete floor creating a consistent, regulated temperature. The construction in the upper storey is highly insulated but lightweight timber construction in order to respond more quickly to a less consistent occupancy and lower temperature demands of the bedrooms.
For Elliot’s, the key aspect of sustainability is design quality and making appropriate, contextually aware architecture: “In considering the physical, social and historic contexts, we can make truly sustainable architecture. If the architecture is considered special in some way, the life span of the building is likely to be dramatically increased. This project has been very well received by the clients and will hopefully be standing for generations to come.”