BLOG: A house with a difference

12 February 2018

Luke Abbott, architect and director at the Roger Coy Partnership, has written his latest blog about a house with a difference in Northamptonshire

Sustainable housing is becoming more popular as we consider the future of the environment more carefully than perhaps we have in the past.

I have been working on an exciting project in Northamptonshire since April 2015 which is focused on creating an earth covered house.

These types of homes are energy efficient, weather-resistant, low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing.

The planning process has been quite complicated because the property is technically in land classified as open countryside which means an application generally wouldn’t be supported unless it was for a forestry worker, an agricultural worker or the design is of exceptional quality.

We submitted a planning application in 2016 which we subsequently withdrew and we then attended two Design Review panel meetings with OPUN to obtain their input on our initial proposals. We revised our initial drawings to reach the current design that we have put forward to the planning committee.

We have focused on the exceptional design quality which is outlined in paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework which allows new homes that are architecturally outstanding to be built in the countryside.

The design process has been focused throughout on providing a piece of architecture that reflects the character of its location, which has both identity, and is sustainable. These factors strive to create a dwelling that is truly outstanding and innovative. The character of the rolling Northamptonshire Upland hills informs the building’s shallow domed roof covered with wild meadow flowers and the former quarry face informs the rugged elevations.

The dwelling’s visual impact has been assessed and deemed to have no adverse effect. It is understood that the site is technically open countryside, however, it is well within the village, with development on all sides.

The scale, form and materials have all been selected to create contextual harmony without trying to hide the building. We want the architecture to be glimpsed through the peripheral trees without the building dominating the landscape. This is a fine balance to strike and has involved detailed site analysis.

The development proposal meets Code 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. This has been met with careful design considerations including the orientation, mass and form of the dwelling in addition to environmental technologies.

We are confident that with the input of Opun Design East Midlands we have met the stringent requirements set out by Paragraph 55 of the NPPF.

A planning application for an earth covered house was submitted to South Northamptonshire Council last month (January) which focuses on the quality of the work and environmental performance of the home as well as the outstanding design. 

It is unusual in that there will be a primary structure and there will be materials for part of the earth matter to drain.

A bed of sedum and native wild flower plants will be laid on the top of and engineered roofing system designed for green roofs to create a natural looking living roof.