In 2008, architects BBM Sustainable Design Ltd were commissioned to regenerate a country estate near the beautiful East Sussex village of Hadlow Down. The project took five years to complete, but the result is a development that is both sustainable and visually stunning.
As well as building a high spec country residence, the client’s vision included transforming a derelict dairy into a swimming pool and modifying a 19th-century oast house. Despite the demanding nature of the brief, architect James Rae and landscape architect Luke Englebeck came up with a low energy design for the entire estate, which includes 275 acres of countryside.
When it came to designing the new house, environmental engineer Jamieson Hillier of Battle McCarthy was brought on board. His brief was to create a highly sustainable property that would sit comfortably alongside the oast house.
Little England Farm House is cleverly designed to make the most of its position and views. The south-facing side features plenty of glazing to make the most of any sunshine, particularly during the winter months. Blinds prevent overheating during the summer.
Both the pool house and the new house feature solar panels. The roof of the new house has been shaped to face south, enabling the solar panels to capture more sunshine. Rainwater is also collected for use on site.
Jamieson Hillier’s design uses the natural topography and geology of the landscape to provide shelter. For example the north side of the house is dug into a sandstone bank. However, it’s not just the design of Little England Farm House that makes it sustainable.
The materials used to build, insulate and heat the property are also eco-friendly. Heating and hot water for the entire site is provided by a biomass boiler that uses woodchip from the estate’s woodland. The woodlands also provided timber for the internal cladding and external insulation.
Even the soil underneath the house has been cleverly recycled during the building process, as it was used to build a wall between the meditation room and entrance hall.
Inside the main house, the walls are finished with lime plaster, which has a smaller carbon footprint than normal plaster and absorbs airborne toxins. The walls of the pool house are finished with Moroccan Tadelakt, which is perfect for moist atmospheres, as it was originally used in Moroccan bathhouses.
To avoid Sick Building Syndrome, which well-sealed buildings are prone to, the design team avoided using synthetic plastics and toxic glue. The polished concrete floors in the main house are robust, stylish and act as a heat sink.
To prevent insects from entering, the house is mechanically ventilated. Instead of opening windows, the cooling is provided by a pond which is always cooler than the hottest day of the year. The air supply is also pre-cooled through earth tubes and a heat recovery unit.
Designing and building such a high spec low carbon home was immensely challenging and the team at Battle McCarthy are full of praise for Mr Hillier’s “meticulous attention to detail, and supreme knowledge of the principles of low carbon sustainable construction.”
As a superb example of eco-friendly design, Little England Farm House will hopefully inspire other wealthy developers to consider building low carbon houses. The project team’s commitment and hard work was rewarded in 2016 when the property won the East Sussex Building Control Partnership’s award for Best Individual New House.
BBM Sustainable Design Ltd, 01273 400319
Battle McCarthy, 020 7440 8282
Studio Engleback, 01892 538537
BBP Consulting Engineers, 01273 52100,
East Sussex Building Control Partnership, 01892 602005