The Client, a couple whose background combines biological science, medicine, and education, and who share a passion for birdwatching, created a brief for the restoration, conservation and management of the 7.5 acres of Nature Reserve on Sartfell Mountain. The long-term vision is to rewild the site with native woodland, meadowland and acid bogs which are home to rare orchid species. Our response to the site draws on our previous research of drystone construction whilst working in Abruzzo, Italy. We have reinterpreted this vernacular technology and local Manx stone structures to create an original building in its unique setting. Harvested from the site, the drystone walls allow local ecology to inhabit voids within. Its organic rooftop emulates the flora of the immediate area and complements the drystone walling. Over a period of time, the walls will subtly become part of the landscape, with minimal impact on the land. The signature feature of the house is a ribbon window that wraps around, framing the sweeping views of the Mountains of Mourne, the Irish Sea and the Mull of Galloway, to the delight of the pair of ornithological enthusiasts. All the spaces are ordered around a staircase core forming a triangular plan that elegantly accommodates the library. The drama of the staircase is topped with a clerestory that frames the study and its exposed concrete interior. The poetic orientation of the stairs aligns the ascendance with views up to the mountain, whilst the descent directs views down into the valley. The entire site is carbon neutral in operation, equipped with ground source heating harnessing energy from a nearby lake, a natural processing sewerage system and a wind turbine. Weather conditions were monitored prior to construction with the introduction of a weather station capturing data to achieve the optimum level of the retreat’s environmental performance.
Project Facts: - Full restoration of the surrounding land (removing nitrates from the soil and allowing the reintroduction & rewilding of native plants - including rare orchids) - Planned Visitors’ Centre on site will help educate about nature preservation, restoration and rewilding - Biodiverse green roofs with carbon-capturing hay base and native wildflower planting. Soil from site excavations have been used to further reduce the reliance on off-site materials - Stone excavated from on-site digging, has been reused by skilled stonemasons to build the external walls of the dwelling - Installation of a water borehole to provide all the water demands for the whole site - All foul waste is taken through a biodigester which negates the demand for mains systems - An innovative lake based water source heat pump provides heat for the house -The MVHR system provides ventilation and reduces heating demands -Sustainable electricity production with planned wind turbine -Zero carbon regulated energy consumption -The orientation of the building has been manipulated to increase the southern exposure to maximise passive solar gains -South facing windows have deep reveals to reduce unwanted solar gain, the ribbon window has projecting steel lining to reduce solar gain. The reveals are designed to limit the summer sun when it is high in the sky but allow lower-level winter sun into the building to optimise passive solar heating. -Short wide glazing exploits the view across the valley and optimises daylight levels whilst reducing summer solar gain and limiting heat loss -Triple height staircase library creates a ventilation stack to draw air through the building for cooling (all habitable rooms adjoin the stack to allow a natural ventilation path through openable windows and up and out of the stack) -Thermal mass used internally through exposed cast in-situ 250mm concrete walls and exposed polished concrete floors to regulate the temperature inside the house -High levels of external insulation placed outside this concrete to ensure minimal heat loss to this thermal mass - High performance double and triple glazing was used to further reduce heat loss -The whole lower ground floor of the house is cut into hillside to exploit the natural thermal mass of the ground -Predicted regulated operational energy use is 0 kg/C02/m2/yr -Reductions in embodied energy were made through the use of local materials (e.g. site sourced dry stone)