HPH074 : How a Public Consultation Helped a Rural Self Build – with Alex Baines
Alex Baines talks through the plans for his semi earth-sheltered home, to be constructed to Passivhaus standard, and explains why involving the local community in the early stages was essential in gaining the relevant permissions.
Interview with Alex Baines
Alex Baines' new home Long Barrow is going to be a contemporary design but with traditional materials. It has had a lot of input from the surrounding community, which Alex's wife Louise grew up in and where Alex's mother currently lives.
This is also a project we will be following at House Planning Help.
Gaining Early Support From Local Residents Was Fundamental to the Scheme
Given the planning restrictions in place at the site, Alex knew that it was going to be important to have the support of the locals. With their intention to settle in the location that was already special to their family, they also didn’t want to cause annoyance or be ostracized for creating something that was going to be upsetting to their neighbours.
The plot is an existing piece of land owned by Alex's mother
Public Consultations Were Crucial to Achieving Planning Application Approval
By using an iterative process of developing the design based on feedback from the public consultations, they were able to present the planners with a design which had a vast amount of local support. Alex credits this as being the reason they were given planning approval, even though the planning regulations in that particular area were against it.
The Final Design Evolved Through the Consultation Process
By asking people to be more specific about the elements they did and didn’t like, the final design has evolved to be contemporary in form and traditional in the materials used. The quantity and positioning of the glazing was also selected partly in order to minimise the visual impact on the areas that people can see it from.
The final design (south elevation)
A Design Challenge Was Set for the Juniors at the Architect’s Practice
Alex likes being experimental and finding new ways of doing things, so gave the juniors the chance to create some original sketches, based literally only on the location and the number of rooms, almost as a type of work experience for them.
Submitting 3 or 4 Designs at a Time Helped the Consultation Process
By offering multiple options, people were able to point to elements that they didn’t like, and also ones that they did. Towards the end of the process the comments were quite specific, and they were taken on board to produce the final design, which actually ended up being a much cheaper and simpler concept.
The Key Requirements of the Building Were Very Simple
The family had fairly simple requirements of what they needed from the building, and it came down to the functionality of room functions and sizes. Together with the standard rooms they wanted a boot room, for stopping the spread into the rest of the building of muddy dogs and children!
Alex works as a Passivhaus consultant so achieving Passivhaus certification was also something that was fundamental to the project. He was able to explain the ecological principles to the locals who were very supportive of the concept, and worked to fit them into the design.
A cutaway graphic of Long Barrow (underground)
The Building has Been Designed to Last for Generations and be Flexible for the Needs of any Different Occupants
It was important for Alex to create something that has longevity and will last for hundreds of years, which is the reason why he will be using ICF for the floor and shell.
As the external design will not easily accommodate any extensions, he has ensured that the interior has a completely clear span so that any future generations living in the property can adapt the space to their needs.
From a professional point of view, Alex is also interested in researching the properties of the ICF and seeing how it performs over the year.
The Management of the Project is Being Split, According to the Stage
The first part of the build is being managed by the ICF manufacturer. Their contract is to manage and deliver the shell of the building. Once that has been handed over, Alex can continue with the management of the local tradespeople before his wife is able to concentrate on finishing the interior.
The ICF System Keeps Things Simple
They don’t have to worry too much about airtightness with this system and the insulation is effectively already built in, really only leaving the windows to focus on. Although it may be slightly more expensive in ICF because the price of the material, and therefore that part of the build, is known they should be able to stick more closely to their budget.
Getting Enough Natural Light has Been a Concern
With the whole basement level being underground there was a worry that the rear of the building was not going to get enough natural light. Adding space for a lift was in their plans and by changing the designs to widen the stairs they have created a space where the stairs can wrap around a lift, when the time should come that they wish to add one. In the meantime, the extra space has created a lightwell down through the stair core into the back of the house, meaning it hasn’t been as much of a problem as they thought it might be.
Find Out More
Download a transcript of the interview with Alex Baines.
See How Green Building Store Retrofitted Stirley Farm
Regen Media has recently completed this video for Green Building Store. It explains all about a low energy retrofit that they have carried out at Stirley Community Farm.
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About The Author
Lucy Cowell is owner of the Virtual Assistant company Quantum PA. Being immersed in the world of architecture for over 20 years and since working with Ben Adam-Smith, she is now determined to build her own house one day too!