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Green Orchard, Gloucestershire, by Paul Archer Design

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[5 houses by 5 practices] This week the AJ features five houses: three in England, one on the Isle of Man, another in Ireland, each marked by a unique materiality, whether in stone, roughcast, timber or mirrored metal

Green Orchard is a new 200m² carbon neutral house designed by Paul Archer Design. Set within 2,675m² of landscaped gardens in south Gloucestershire, the house benefits from spectacular views over the Severn Estuary.

Having earned a reputation for contemporary residential extensions and renovations predominantly in an urban setting, Green Orchard is the practice’s first new-build, detached, single-family dwelling commission. The brief called for a Los Angeles Case Study-style house with green credentials, which would permit seamless outdoor/indoor living while delivering a zero-carbon agenda.

The house replaces a dilapidated single-storey dwelling with a contemporary, low-rise, four-bedroom home. Set within landscaped gardens and without the constraints of typical urban projects, Green Orchard is designed in the round, with all four elevations taking advantage of the views out and access to the garden. Maximising its rural setting, the house adopts the methodology of a Passivhaus typology without its single orientation.

The main living spaces and master bedroom are located on the ground floor with direct access to the garden. An excavated sunken level creates a second floor for additional sleeping accommodation, ensuring a low-rise profile that embraces the natural topography of the site.

The house incorporates four bedrooms (two of which have en-suite facilities), a main bathroom, a workshop space, kitchen, dining and living area. The open-plan living space is arranged on the ground floor around a wood-burning stove. The room also has large windows to create a sense of openness, maximise views to the garden and receive lots of light. Two external terraces connect to the garden and are orientated to catch the sun at different times of the day.

The outer skin of the building is made of bespoke hand-crafted full-height panels, which are electronically motorised to fully slide open. The panels are highly insulated and allow the occupants to control and vary the thermal performance of the house, depending on the time of day and season. The panels are constructed of locally sourced timber and clad with mirrored aluminium to reflect the landscape and camouflage the structure in its surroundings.

The house and landscape have been designed with the specific intention to reduce energy consumption: a wood-burning Stûv stove is the only heat source; water is supplied by a 93m-deep bore hole; thermal solar panels on the roof yield heating for 80 per cent of the house’s water; and photovoltaics provide all electrical energy when calculated over the yearly cycle. A green roof embeds the property into the landscape, filtering out pollutants from the surrounding air and acts as an effective active insulation. It keeps the building cool in summer and warm in winter, reducing the requirement for excessive energy production.

Set in gardens cultivated by the client, Green Orchard is screened from its neighbouring properties and road frontage. A sunken driveway and raised garden reduces the visual impact of the house and planting provides a tranquil setting from which to enjoy the countryside views.

Green Orchard is the second house the practice has designed for the same client, Paul Archer’s mother and her husband. The plan allows for easy navigation and access to all areas, while generous room sizes and a flowing internal layout ensures that manoeuvrability is unhindered, an essential consideration when designing for clients in their later years.

An innovative house has been achieved on a modest budget by designing the house to accommodate modular, off-the-shelf interior units. The client has taken a hands-on approach to deliver high-quality finishes by contributing their own expertise, from the design and planting of the garden to the carpentry of the exterior sliding panels and manufacture of the interior glass balustrades.

Whilst unashamedly contemporary in its design, harnessing the latest in green technology, Green Orchard is a sensitive response to its location, integrating appropriate materials and functional details to create an innovative and tangible solution to current environmental issues, presenting a way forward in designing a sustainable future.

Paul Archer, director, Paul Archer Design

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