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Sustainability by Design: A Case Study in Low Carbon Pragmatism

Dating back to the 18th century, this charming cottage was to be renovated, using an approach that focussed on simplicity, sustainability, and practicality.

The renovation project, led by Other Studio Architects centred on an extension that would seamlessly integrate with the existing cottage while minimising its environmental footprint. Unlike conventional approaches heavy on steel and concrete, we employed innovative structural solutions that were efficient and elegant.

The single-storey rear extension, was predominantly glazed and supported by a post and beam framework. This "timber pavilion," as it was fondly referred to, was envisioned not just as an addition, but as a tribute to the cottage's heritage. Its form mimicked the exposed oak beams of the original structure, creating a harmonious link between past and present.

The key challenge would be to extend the cottage without compromising its historic charm, in a way that could be constructed by the client’s son, a trained carpenter, whilst minimising the embodied carbon.

A small timber retaining wall acts to retain the garden surrounding this small residential extension, allowing for a suspended timber ground floor. A continuous void around the perimeter allows full ventilation of the space beneath the floor, and is neatly closed with a repurposed drainage channel grate.

The floor sits on four small steel groundscrews, installed swiftly and economically, which bear the weight of the extension while drastically reducing the need for deep concrete footings and, consequently, the project’s carbon footprint. The decision to use ground screws was inspired by the heavy clay soil and the presence of nearby trees which would typically necessitate deep concrete trench fill footings. This lightweight solution not only addressed logistical challenges but also aligned perfectly with the project’s ethos of minimal environmental impact.

Externally, the structure was formed in local air-dried oak, forming a distinctive timber exoskeleton that will weather naturally alongside the cottage. Inside, kiln-dried oak contributed to a warm and inviting atmosphere, echoing the timeless elegance of the original building. Every material choice, every design element, was carefully curated to enhance the cottage's character while embracing sustainability at its core.

Beyond its structural pragmatism, the project served as a testament to the transformative power of thoughtful design. By prioritising natural materials and efficient construction methods, the team revitalised a historic cottage in a sensitive, timely and budget-friendly manner.


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