With a Fenland site perfectly suited to wind-turbine-generated electricity, Graeme and Heath Lockhart set about building a contemporary sustainable home with low running costs that would also make the most of the big skies and amazing view a for miles around.
Sitting on the very edge of Ely, Graeme and Heather Lockhart’s home lies within an extraordinary landscape of flat, wide-open fenland. This contemporary eco house, clad in red cedar wood stained a soft grey, splices the inspiration of agricultural buildings with a progressive, soft kind of modernity. ‘I was keen to make the house contextual and establish strong connections with the site,’ says architect Graeme.
Around five years ago, Graeme and school teacher Heather decided to rethink the way that they lived and build a bespoke home for themselves. Their three children had left home and Graeme sold his old architectural practice and founded a smaller company. Then the perfect site for their new home presented itself.
‘In the Twenties this was a petrol station,’ says Graeme. ‘There were a number of old agricultural buildings, a workshop and a house that was falling down. We had noticed the site and thought it was interesting, so when it finally came on the market we decided to go for it.’
Trying to acquire the site within a busy and competitive property market, the Lockharts decided to buy without planning permission. It’s not something that Graeme would recommend to his clients, but he decided to take a risk, knowing that he would have a good chance to build a replacement dwelling on the site. The land had to be cleaned up and cleared, removing years’ worth of contaminating oil and junk from its days as a petrol station. When they finally put in their designs for planning permission – complete with a car port and separate studio arranged around a farmyard-style entrance area – the building sailed through very quickly.
‘Heather was keen to split up the building into two parts, with a separate annex with bedrooms for the children or guests, and then the main house itself. She also wanted a large farmhouse-style kitchen, so that’s where the idea of a big, open-plan living room and kitchen came from.’
Downstairs, the house revolves around this generous, light-filled space, which also has room for a dining table and breakfast table, while opening up to an adjoining terrace with views across the gardens and the open landscape. The master bedroom is also on the lower level of the house, while three bedrooms are positioned in the single-storey annex to one side of it. On the first storey, with the best of the vistas out across the countryside in one direction and towards Ely and the cathedral in the other, Graeme designed a library for Heather, a drawing room and a studio, which he uses as a home work space for his new practice, CMP Projects.
The ethos of sustainable living has been woven through every aspect of the house. The building is timber framed and clad, with high levels of insulation and careful orientation to benefit from solar gain in the colder months, while natural cross ventilation comes into play in the summer. The annex is coated in a green sedum roof, while landscaping and tree planting have reinvented and revitalised the natural setting.
The house uses a ground source heat pump to provide underfloor heating on the ground floor of the building, while the upper level relies only on a combination of solar gain and ambient heat from below. A wind turbine, well suited to the open fenland, helps provide electricity and, as far as possible, the Lockharts used local and East Anglian builders and suppliers, cutting down on road miles involved in construction.
‘Here the site suited a wind turbine and with minimal energy bills, there is a very significant difference in running costs compared to our old house. What we were looking for was quality and character, but did also want it to be sustainable.’
Architect Graeme Lockhart, CMP Projects (01353 772 800; cmpprojects.com)
Civil engineer/structural engineer MLM (01473 231 100; mlm.uk.com)
Landscape contractor Land Structure (01638 583 560; landstructure.co.uk)
Heat pump/heating installation Econic Renewable Energy Solutions (01603 277 040; myriadceg.com)
Wind-turbine installation Solar Energy Alliance (01502 515 532; solarenergyalliance.com)
Windows and doors Velfac (01223 897 100; velfac.co.uk)
Sedum roof Bauder
(0845 271 8800; bauder.co.uk)
Zinc roof Rheinzink
(01276 686 725;
Glass balustrades and stairs Saxum
(01803 866 893; saxum.co.uk)
Land cost £300,000
Wind turbine (including foundations) £25,000
Total build cost £507,500
Total build cost per sqm £2,187.50
Total cost £807,500