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Studio Bark wins approval for self-powered Para 55 country house

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Studio Bark has won the go-ahead for this off-grid ’country house clause’ home in rural Dallinghoo, Suffolk

The east London-based practice relied on Paragraph 55 in the National Planning Policy Framework – an exemption allowing new-build homes in the open countryside under ‘special circumstances’ - to land approval for the 300m² scheme.

The studio describes the house, which will produce all its own energy, as a ‘modern interpretation of a long black agricultural building’. The site previously housed a clutch of farm buildings, the largest being a long barn running along the western side of the plot. 

According to the firm, the lower ground level of the two-storey, five-bedroom house will be set back to create ’the illusion of a floating barn, inspired by the building’s ambition to have zero impact on its surrounding environment’.

Work is expected to start on site in January next year (2017).

Designing an off-grid home - the architect’s view

The use of innovative passive heating and ventilation principles has been conceived alongside careful detailing of the building fabric, and a well-balanced surface to volume ratio. Black Barn will provide in-use heat energy savings of approximately 90 per cent on current building regulations. Significantly this is all achieved without the need for any additional bolt-on technology. The detailed off-grid design allows this building to operate fully without any reliance on the local infrastructure.

Our approach has been to integrate off-grid and environmental technologies that are unintrusive to the house functionality. The major features allowing the house to go off-grid are: solar array, bio-diesel generator with heat recovery system (mimicking a micro-CHP), battery storage, Klargester sewage treatment system and water source through borehole.

Initial predicted annual consumption figures for each area in the house (courtesy Whole House Energy):

  • Kitchen equipment 720kWh
  • Lighting 560kWh
  • Heating (pumps) and Ventilation 1,150kWh
  • Auxiliary equipment (eg televisions, computers) 770kWh
  • Total predicted annual consumption 3,200kWh

The living space is designed to maximise stack-ventilation from the north end of the building up to the south. High-level openings on the gable end draw the air through the space, circulating fresh air. Additionally the width of the space is kept to a minimum with slim window openings on either side of the space to create cross-ventilation. Further to this the downstairs living room space remains open, creating the same stack-ventilation and cross-ventilation effect with the lower level of the house.

The bedrooms are located partially underground and protected from direct sunlight. Each has a large picture window, and a second narrow window for background ventilation. The principle here is to provide expansive views across the fields while creating good cross-ventilation without the need for any mechanical ventilation.

A 142 planning drawings site sections

Project data

Type of project Off-grid single dwelling
Location Dallinghoo, Suffolk Coastal
Client Private
Architect Studio Bark
Structural engineer Structure Workshop
M&E consultant not appointed
Quantity surveyor Trunk Low Energy Building
Planning supervisor not appointed
Lighting consultant not appointed
Main contractor not appointed
Funding Private
Start on site date mid January 2017
Completion date mid September 2017
Gross internal floor area 300m²
Form of contract Traditional
Total cost Unknown

BB StudioBark 6

BB StudioBark 6


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