Ecological architecture - sustainable design

'Sine Sole Sileo' is a sundial motto (I am silent until in sunshine). This design follows the whole day's activities, from waking to then sleeping again, illuminated by the sun's path, between first light and dusk.

The house presents one and a half storeys, lower level nestled into the slope of the site, screened: The upper ground floor level is a complete living suite, with universal access. Cut into the friable slope, everything below upper ground level is masonry; a plinth to receive a timber frame. Timber is only exposed externally on the roof fascia boards in larch, charred, for preservation. Valentia slate roof is reprised as a durable finish to clad the walls at the upper levels.

The tripartite plan is a cruciform three by three set of nine squares, revelling in diagonal modulated enfilades, of flowing space and light: In its landscape yet a volume, a villa, cubic on three levels and, therefore, compact to use less of everything, much more efficiently.

On an beautiful elevated slope, but built on loose fill, a old bungalow had serious structural problems. Underground drains had been damaged by subsidence. Existing low quality construction made it necessary to start over again: So, demolition and rebuild a new low-energy home was appropriate.

The replacement house garden level has a masonry plinth, with retaining wall. Above this, a piano nobile enjoys views out over open landscape towards 'The Paps' of Co. Kerry to the South from open plan reception spaces around a central soapstone stove, kackelofen. The house presents just this level and the roof, while the lower level nestles into the slope of the site, all screened and inconspicuous: There is only a ‘key hole’ view from the road through the existing gateway in tall, dense established hedge. Rather than facing the road, the house is oriented due-south in order that the passive and active solar design works efficiently. These radically reducing the carbon footprint and use of fossil fuel for heating etc.

Living spaces are arranged to optimise the usability of the relatively small site and it's amenity including a structural glass deck on galvanised steel frame. These benefit from the distant views of landscape, high levels of daylight as well as the warmth of the solar gain, stored in the high thermal mass of the floor. Windows to the North are very modest in size with an entrance porch as a buffer space.

The clients had many specialised requirements which developed during design and, even, the construction phase. The geometry has an inherent simple logic and practical 'build-ability'. Future-proof, the form is flexible and able to adapt.


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