Noss Mayo, Devon

“A celebration of green, this single story ICF home built in the client’s former garden, made a perfect second ‘forever’ home.”

Our clients took an unusual step and decided to build in the garden of their original early retirement home, which they had relocated to from Bath in 1998 . The clients had spent the past 20 years lovingly restoring the site and gardens to a standard which warranted being opened to the public for charity; little did they know that this mature sloping plot would one day form the site for their single-storey retirement home.

Shirley (the client) told the Self Build and Design magazine… “It was a strange feeling when Paul leapt up one day, while enjoying the sunset from our wonderful garden, exclaiming that there was room to build a house up there! We had spent 20 years working on the landscaping, and we experimented with growing so many different plants. It really was a labour of love. But building on it made perfect sense, and we have managed to retain almost all of the plants.”

The Challenges

Throughout the project, the clients experienced several setbacks and problems that had to be overcome, including their initial planning application being refused twice; however, they were able to work with their architect, Eric Davies – Ercle Designs (https://www.ercle.co.uk/)  to come up with a new design that they finally won on appeal. 

In terms of the windows and doors for the project, there were certain criteria that would need to be achieved in order to maximise the clients benefit of using our products. 

One thing that was really important for this project, was ensuring they chose products that they would still find manageable as they got older.

Being in an exposed location, the couple were advised that trickle vents were not a great idea as they could cause air or water ingress as well as becoming a pesky fly trap ! The problem with this was that to comply with building regulations they needed to provide background ventilation in the rooms.

Design was another element that was high on the agenda when we first met with the clients. Shirley was very into ‘Frank Lloyd Wright’ (https://franklloydwright.org/work/) and was keen to explore simple clean lines with consideration for the environment. We needed to ensure that we could supply a product that not only met the basic requirements of a window and door but, aesthetically, was a joy to look at as well…

With other issues arising for the couple throughout the project, such as the discovery of contamination from an ancient gas pipe and the onset of a lockdown due to the pandemic just one week before move in day, it really was a crazy but exciting journey for everyone involved.

The Solutions

We soon learned that the clients were working with a builder already familiar to us, Doyle and Whitley (https://doyleandwhitley.co.uk/). Our surveyors were able to liaise directly with them which meant that all processes in the project could keep on schedule. It was also beneficial, as by talking directly to the builders, the surveyors could inform and discuss all of the requirements that would need to be ready in order for them to successfully complete the installation and minimise mistakes on all sides.

We sat down with the clients and showed them the options they had available – bearing in mind the fact that we wanted the building to be manageable as they got older. The clients got the chance to try the products in the showroom and were able to see how easy the operation was. The window systems all had a night latch position on them, which would prove beneficial in balancing the room’s temperature during the nighttime. 

We advised that sliders would be the best option for their property, as they would be able to achieve near-to-flush floor levels to their patio area whilst still achieving a rebated threshold for weathering. This meant that they could futureproof the building allowing wheelchair access if necessary. 

The other benefit that came with our slider was the marine-grade stainless steel pull bar handle. This solid and stylish handle meant that they could glide the doors effortlessly in their tracks, rather than struggling with a smaller, less sturdy handle. The best thing about this was that the clean, sleek aesthetic handle allowed them to put practicality first without compromising on design!

Trickle vents were to be the next hurdle we crossed. After explaining to the clients the downfalls of trickle vents in areas like these, they decided to install an MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery) system as this meant that they would do away with the need for trickle vents. They would have a continuous supply of fresh air to provide good indoor air quality, further eliminating any odours caused by cooking or bathrooms.

Finally it was important that we considered the look that Shirley was keen to incorporate. We were able to show her the clean, crisp lines that were achievable by looking at products in the showroom. The clients were able to take colour samples and try them against other home finishes, allowing them to match everything up exactly as they wanted. High-level angled windows helped compliment Shirley’s desire for sleek, simple and angular lines.

The builders were keen to help achieve this look and provided natural oak treads to clad around some of the external framework, which added further sophistication to the desired look.

The Results

The clients are left with a fabulous, modern yet accessible property that they will be able to comfortably enjoy as they get older. The property is filled with natural light and allows the couple to enjoy panoramic views across the valley. They were able to sell the original retirement home and were left with this iconic masterpiece to enjoy the rest of their lives in.

Perhaps one of the highest points for us on the project was seeing the article that the clients wrote with ‘Self Build and Design’ magazine. The final question they were asked in this interview was ‘Your Best Buy ?’ to which they responded in print…

“The high quality windows, together with frames specially designed by the builder.” 
To read the ‘Self Build and Design’ article on this project, visit https://www.selfbuildanddesign.com/case_studies/celebration_of_green_icf_south_west_single_storey_2010.pdf

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