The Deerings, Harpenden

Designed by: Gresford Architects
For client: Private individual Floor area: 400.00 M² Year of completion: 2018
Submitted for: Sustainability Award

The Deerings 1
© Quintin Lake

Front facade of the simple two storey rectangular form.

About the Project

The Deerings, a new build modernist certified passivhaus, is a brave addition to a traditional suburban street scene in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. This striking five-bedroom home, built by Passivhaus experts Gresford Architects, is a sympathetic response to its urban setting and sits comfortably alongside its more traditional neighbouring properties.

Far removed from the former bungalow that sat on the site, the building has been designed to optimise its performance by adopting a ‘fabric first approach’ while meeting the client’s aspirations in terms of space and lifestyle. The house was built from a super-insulated timber frame, which was constructed off-site by MBC Timber Frame. The frame was supplied with insulation and airtight membrane, and erected on a passive slab, also provided by MBC. The frame went up in 3 weeks, significantly speeding up the overall programme, and minimising wastage and disturbance to neighbours. Recycled paper insulation and timber cladding externally was chosen to reduce the carbon footprint of the building, minimising the use of concrete and steel to less than 10% of the total volume of the building.

A beautiful open plan ground floor now encapsulates the warmth and character of the house and a well-proportioned first-floor layout allows for five double bedrooms.

What’s unique about it

This simple two storey rectangular form is on the cutting edge of sustainable design, constructed utilising modern and innovative methods and built with family living in mind. Yet The Deerings feels like any “normal” family home. The difference is that is costs virtually nothing to run – at the beginning of November 2017, the homeowners had still not turned on the heating. A heat exchange system provides constant background ventilation, removing stale air and drawing in fresh air, so the house always has a fresh, ventilated feel, while maintaining its warmth. A specialist Passivhaus certified woodburner was occasionally used and although a back-up gas boiler was supplied the house performed so well during winter that it was never turned on, and even on the coldest days, without the heating, the house maintained its ambient temperature of around 21 degrees.

The project highlights that a Passivhaus can be a crisply designed modern piece of architecture, eschewing the clichéd “hair shirt” approach to sustainable living.

Space heating demand: 12.0 kWh/m²/a
Primary Energy: 37 kWh/m²a
Airtightness: 0.5 ACH @ n50
Annual predicted CO2 emissions: 9.9 kgCO²/m²/a
Heat load: 9 W/m²
Non-renewable Primary Energy Demand: 45 kWh/m²/a
Primary Energy Renewable Demand: 37 kWh/m²/a

The Deerings 2
© Quintin Lake

Rear facade.

The Deerings 3
© Quintin Lake

Rear facade detail.

The Deerings 4
© Quintin Lake

An open, minimalist timber and steel staircase allows light to pass through into the depth of the plan.

The Deerings 5
© Quintin Lake

The ash cladding continues onto the ceiling of the living room and gives it a warm and cosy feel in contrast to the more open and airy dining and kitchen areas.

The Deerings 6
© Quintin Lake

Open plan living areas.

The Deerings 7
© Quintin Lake

A cosy snug and a spacious home office are tucked away behind a wall clad in ash battens which brings a sense of calm to the space and also houses a specialist Passivhaus certified woodburner.

The Deerings 8
© Quintin Lake

The characterful kitchen has been handmade by a family member and finished with contemporary concrete worktops.

The Deerings 9
© Quintin Lake

Stair detail.

The Deerings 10
© Quintin Lake

The family bathroom has been orientated towards the garden with the bath positioned to take advantage of a view of the trees and the sky beyond.

Location of project:
Gresford Architects

Trunk Low Energy Building Ltd

Tanner Structural Design Ltd

Cubic Building Surveying Ltd

Nicolas Tye Architects

Husker Ltd

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