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Dyer House by StudioKAP

[5 houses by 5 practices] StudioKAP: Dyer House, Falkirk

This house was designed for a recently retired GP couple whose extended family spans four generations and often come to visit. While wishing to ‘downsize’, the clients’ justification for building a new house was that it could be an exemplar of low-carbon design with maximum use of recycled materials. Both its procurement and construction were considered in light of energy consumption and embedded energy.

A strong advantage of the existing site was its proximity to a train station with direct links to Glasgow and Edinburgh, just a few minutes’ walk away. The site characteristics included a steep north-south incline, existing trees, long views to the north, and the presence of the existing villa. There was also the challenge of avoiding overlooking and being overlooked by neighbours.

The key design move was to use an existing driveway to locate a new structure with east-west window orientation, avoiding building over valuable garden space and protecting northward views from both houses. The incline was exploited to minimise the new structure’s presence where it came close to the existing house, while allowing greater sectional opportunities at the opposite end.

The new dwelling is conceived as a mews-scale building that sits discreetly below the existing brick villa. Its Iroko-clad structure rests on a single-storey stone plinth nestling behind the trees and walls that currently characterise the Drossie Road side of the site.

A pebbled roofscape presents a ‘fifth elevation’ and offers presentable views from neighbouring houses. Despite a plea on environmental grounds, the planning department insisted on two parking spaces and a turning area. These are located below a decked terrace to minimise their presence in the entrance courtyard.

One of the clients had been brought up and graduated as a doctor in Zambia, while the other had worked in Malawi. There was a desire on their part to feel part of this previous life in the new house. This found expression in a number of ways; a certain quality of daylight inside, a relaxed, sociable interior, and recycled African hardwood flooring.

Power is in part generated by a ground source heat pump and PV panels. The thermal design exceeds required regulation levels, with hemp insulation and a breathable envelope. Views outward, light entering inwards, sheltered and open external spaces all make the most of a small, demanding physical context.

Christopher Platt, director in charge, StudioKAP

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