We were commissioned in 2008 to design a new sustainable traditionally-inspired home in Marston, Wiltshire.
Marston is a small hamlet four miles south-west of Devizes, with a population of about two hundred. The tight-knit community and strong rural character of the area called for a sensitive and neighbourly approach to design.
The clients, a retired couple, sought a lifetime home which would remain readily accessible throughout their lives, while also achieving the highest standards of environmental performance. We set out to design a house which would weave together the best of traditional and modern design, both in terms of aesthetics, accessibility, and environmental performance.
North-facing windows were minimised to allow for passive heating via large south- and west-facing windows through solar gain in winter, while low-hanging eaves in these areas prevented excessive heating in the summer. We also combined old and new by designing an innovative wall construction in the form of a thick cavity wall with an inner leaf of insulative clay blocks instead of modern breezeblocks. This provided a high thermal mass and therefore temperature stability, while achieving standards of thermal isolation and air tightness which at the time far exceeded building regulations.
Heating was provided by a ground source heat pump and some electricity by a small photovoltaic array.
Externally the building took on the appearance of a thatched cottage which had been developed in piecemeal stages, while level access throughout the ground floor and a lift within the entrance lobby provided for universal access throughout the entire building.
Despite our very sensitive and considered approach to design the project became a victim of parish council politics, with intensive lobbying from local residents resulting in the refusal of planning permission. The clients eventually decided it would be advisable for them to retire elsewhere. The project however remains as an example of how traditional and modern aesthetics and construction methods can be effectively combined – but also how in some places in England, no amount of design sensitivity can overcome fierce local resistance to development.