Architect James Galpin from HazleMcCormackYoung shares insights into how Mayfield Passivhaus was designed and built.
Interview with James Galpin
James has been an architect since 1999.
His practice, HazleMcCormackYoung, works primarily on school design but with new build housing as a secondary element.
A strong connection to the garden was at the heart of this project
This 7-acre site – originally with a bungalow on it – is significant because it has a landscape garden originally designed by Percy Crane.
The client wanted a new home that was relatively timeless in its design, modern in its layout but primarily connected with this garden.
Plans evolved as they considered how they wanted to live in the house
Initially the client wanted the living room to have the best interaction with the garden, but they realised they actually spend a lot of time in the kitchen – as the client loves to cook and socialise with his family. So this became an important room.
The house is essentially a three-dimensional Venn diagram because there are two accommodation wings, both with symmetrical pitched roofs. Where the wings overlap is the entrance.
Finding a ‘forward-thinking' planner was essential
The planners favoured a traditional Wealden house on this site.
James says: “It took me a little while to find the right officer to work with at the planning department because there are forward thinking planners, thankfully, in the area. Once we’d got a good working relationship with that planner, we were on to a more progressive route which everyone would be happy with.”
Creating an abstract graphic of the client's requirements helped them check they were within budget
In the development stage of the project James finds out the budget and also what the client needs from each room. Designing proportions room by room, he can get a sense of the floor area and access whether this might be within budget.
In most cases people want more than they can afford, so at that point they work out where the compromises will be.
“There were elements of the design that I wanted to work in, which aren’t necessarily the most space effective. So, the square meterage was quite high for the building and the budget was restrictive. We were challenged with delivering for around about £1750 per square metre, which is quite keen.”
The contractor's desire to deliver their first Passivhaus helped
James had worked with Richardson and Peat previously on school projects. As a specialist timber frame construction company they were keen to gain Passivhaus experience, and thus were motivated for this project and worked hard to keep it within budget.
Passivhaus made sense for a second home
Initially the client was not sure whether they would be living in Mayfield full-time or spending some of the week in London.
James realised this was a great opportunity to say to them that there was a way to deliver a house that would warm on arrival on Friday evening!
“The house went from being a bungalow that took most of the weekend to warm up, to a house that has very low heating bills – almost no heating bills – that you arrive on that Friday night and it’s warm.”
Good architecture can still lead the way on a Passivhaus build
Creating a beautiful design that meets the client's brief is always how James starts a project.
He says: “There are choices that I make that aren’t always based on cost. You’ve got to pick your battles and there was a sweet spot of working with timber, working with this house, working with the contractor and we were able to deliver that concept for the price.”
The house is floating on polystyrene!
Mayfield Passivhaus has a raft foundation which uses the ISOQUICK system.
Once the bungalow was demolished the site was levelled, the hardcore went down and then they put down the insulating layer of polystyrene.
“It’s a three-hundred millimetre slab that sits on the concrete, effectively sitting then on a shingle bed. And the mass and the solidity of it holds everything down.”
The clients were taken aback by the comfort of the house
The clients love their new home and the way it connects to the garden. They say it's the first house they’ve lived in where every space you go into is equally comfortable. It’s fresh but warm and comfortable.
In fact they like it so much they decided to leave London and move down full time!
James' top self build tip
In the early stage James suggests to gather a collection of ideas of things that make you feel at home.
Ask questions like: ‘What’s my definition of home? What do I feel is home?’
If you see spaces that you particularly feel comfortable in, it’s important to sit and think about the space and work out what it is about that space that makes you feel comfortable. For example, it might be a solid wall behind you while you’ve got a good view out into the garden or it might just be the soft furnishings.
The team and the clients
Find out more