Sustainability Case Study: Llantwit Major

1. Introduction

In early 2021 our clients Storm and Richard Hann asked Bespoke Living AIC to bid for the architectural design services for their property extension, refurbishment, and reconfiguration. They agreed to carry out our Consultation and Live Design Session (CLDS) before considering our bid against 3 other architectural practices in South Wales.

During our CLDS we focused on enhancing the levels of natural light in the property and the views out to the surrounding open space to the front and creating a fully glazed view out to the garden at the rear. It was these key design themes that convinced them that they should move forward with Bespoke Living AIC for our Design and Architectural Services.

2. The Brief

To create a home that could accommodate their elderly parents who needed full time care in their old age, yet a property that would be comfortable for them and make this easy and enjoyable for all. Sustainability was to be a key driver and they wanted to use sustainable technologies and remove reliance on natural gas. The property was a 3 bedroom house with large corner double garage at the end of a terrace of similar properties, overlooking a common green space used extensively by the local community, therefore the design needed to be low key but beautiful and very well detailed due to the public exposure of the site and corner plot.

3. The Existing Layout

The existing layout had only one access point through the front door of the property into the main hallway. The living room was to the right and at the end of the hallway was access to the dining room, this space was cut off from the rear garden. To the left of the dining space was access to a gally kitchen linking the front to the rear, wrapping around to a WC and access corridor to the rear. The previously added wraparound extension has a very low ceiling height and felt tight and cramped.

Access into the 2 no. garage was via a door from the rear and down a ramp which was a poor access point and wasted a lot of space. The garage doors opened onto the access road to the side of the property.

Upstairs from the main hallway lead to the first floor with 2 bedrooms, bathroom and small office/box room to the front above the front door and hallway.

The property was dark, inward looking and felt cold and in need of transformation. See some of the “before” images below.

4. The Solution

After carrying out the measured survey of the property, the clients visited our studio to experience the Consultation and Live Design exercise. This sketch shows the concept design solution, linking all elements of the property.

Level access was created to the front door accessing the main hallway. The entrance hallway was left unchanged and to the right the living room was closed off to form a snug living room, the front window was changed to a set of level access French doors, maximising light and the view out to the common in front of the property. At the end of the hall we created an open plan kitchen, dining and living space that opened up to the rear garden with full width bifold doors. When open the garden to the rear feels like an extension of the main living space.

This open plan space acts as the hub of the home. The rest of the existing wrap around extension was removed and the perimeter walls built up to increase the ceiling height on 2 sides of the open plan space. This also allowed for 3 large roof lights to be incorporated into the higher ceiling sections to the perimeter of the open plan space. Creating a link like this to the sky is proven to be beneficial in terms of mental health and calmness. 

By creating a central open plan space an opportunity to link the front and rear became possible, this was achieved by introducing a large picture frame window seat adjacent to the dining table in between the existing 2 story house and single-story annex. This picture frame window seat is the clients favourite design aspect of the project as it looks across the front harden to the common green beyond and connects them with the heart of the local community.

The open plan space is linked to the annex which has been designed as ancillary accommodation that can be used separately to the main accommodation. It is self-contained with separate access door, boot room, bathroom and open plan living, kitchen and double bunk bed studio. This acts a break away space for our clients and allows their elderly parents to feel genuine independence in the main house.

The second floor did not change significantly this just modernised and the bathroom adapted to provide a wet room. It was intended to allow a stair lift for access of the clients elderly parents but unfortunately they both passed away in early 2022. There this was not required and the space in the annex is now used by family and friends who visit on a regular basis.

Other spaces included on the ground floor included a large larder/utility behind the kitchen which enjoys separate access to the rear garden. The remaining single garage was converted to house the plant associated with the sustainable features of the property and to act as a general storage area with electric car charging port.

5. Architectural Design

The existing property is a 2 story pitched roof design from front to back. This had been extended over time, first with the wrap around pitched roof extension and with the flat roofed garage annex. The composition of this was awkward and unbalanced, lots say the property did not have very much kerb appeal. The design decision toe unify the wraparound extension and garage annex by creating 2 levels of stepped flat roof areas was key. This was then further expressed through the use of external timber cladding and to enhance and unify the appearance of the historic extension and additions to the main 2 story house. Across both the existing house and the timber clad extensions, new double glazed high thermal performance windows in anthracite grey were installed. The timber cladding specified is Siberian Larch which is untreated and will gently fade to a silver grey over time.

6. Sustainability

As a studio we have worked on many sustainable projects over the years, however with the emerging energy crisis, this project in sustainability terms had real gravatas. We as a practice always get the basics right and adopt a fabric first approach and insulated the external envelope with insulated plaster board, focusing on air tightness and draft exclusion. This reduces the amount of energy you need to input to heat the property in the first place and retains the heat once brought up to temperature. It also has the added advantage of keeping heat out in hot times of the year. Using insulated warm roofs on the flat roof and insulating above the structural slab on the ground floor throughout. Loft insultation in the roof of the 2 story main house was added to and any gaps omitted.

Instead of using gas powered combi boiler, we took advantage of the heat “mcenture” grant of £5000 and installed an air source heat pump (ASHP) in the garden, backing onto the plant room in the second smaller garage. The ASHP provides hot water and heating to the property and uses electric to do this. ASHP work like a fridge in reverse, think of the inside of a fridge as being the world we live in, the external atmosphere. In the same way a fridge removes heat from inside the fridge, an ASHP removes the heat from the atmosphere. If you touch the metal piping at the back of the fridge, it is warm, well in the same way the heat extracted by the ASHP is used to heat a metal filament in a hot water tank and heats up the water storing the energy removed from the atmosphere into the hot waster tank to be used to supply hot water and heating. It is a little more complicated than this but you get the general principle.

By using this in conjunction with underfloor heating (UFH), the water temperature used to heat the property is as low as 33 degrees Celsius in comparison to 58 degrees Celsius for a traditional radiator system. We used omni underfloor over lay panels in the main house and traditional underfloor heating pipes laid in screed in the annex.

As the property benefitted from a south west orientation to the front elevation and annex flat roof, we were able to take advantage of solar panels to generate elect5ricity that is stored in batteries off grid and feed directly into the ASHP and electric car charger attached to the wall of the garage.

Having lived in the property, the client is now adding a second battery and taking advantage of cheap electric rates at night to download, store and use at peak required times for heat and hot water demand.

By combining the points mentioned above with the following points, we have created an energy efficient, sustainable home;

  • Envelop enhancement (insulation to floor, walls and roofs)
  • Thermally efficient windows and doors
  • Air Tightness
  • Air Source Heat Pump
  • Underfloor heating
  • Solar panels with battery storage
  • Orientation

In sustainability terms, this has been a break through project adapting an existing building to achieve an A-Rated energy efficient property.

If you have any questions or would like to undertake a similar project, contact us now.