Long House

Each week we write a short background piece on one of our completed projects. This week

Long House, Longstock, Hampshire

This was our own house. The project started with the sale of Highway Farm and the search for a site in the Test Valley to build a new house, the ultimate dream for many architects. When approaching local estate agents enquiring about sites all we got was a condescending stare and something like ‘ rare as hens teeth’ . Luck favours the prepared and after living in a rented cottage opposite the Peat Spade pub for a year the landlord suggested that we should buy half of his pub garden which had planning for two little cottages.

The deal was done over a pint or two and we set about designing and getting approval for a single admittedly rather radial house. Three planning applications and eighteen months later the approval was in the bag. Now to build it.

Stage 1 was to dig up most of the garden to lay 1 km of ground source heat collector 1.5 m below ground, a ground duct for a tempered air supply, a sewage treatment unit ( next to an SSSI) and a rainwater harvesting unit. Then the RC raft slabs for the house, pool and garage block.

While this was going on the primary structural enclosure was being made in Switzerland from cross laminated timber CLT a kind of plywood on steroids, 100 mm thick wall panels and 200 thick floor slabs. These arrived on two huge artics and with a road closure the panels were craned onto site and erected on the slabs in just two days. The whole house was wrapped in 150mm of wood fibre insulation and clad with sweet chestnut boarding on the upper walls and roof (!) and lime render on the ground floor. Sweet chestnut window frame/linings and sliding doors were fitted with structural mastic fixed flush double glazing.

Inside stone floors on the ground floor were heated with underfloor heating and as were the upper chestnut boarded upper floors. A simple plasterboard lining and the addition of a very clever torsion timber staircase courtesy of Momentum Engineers completed the interior. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms upstairs, an open plan living/kitchen space downstairs with a separate studio and a utility space housing the heat pump and other gismos completed the downstairs accommodation.

In parallel with the build the Purbeck stone filled gabion garden wall separating us from the pub was built and the lawn, terraces and driveways were laid so when we moved in the site did not resemble the aftermath of the Somme. So rather over programme and budget we had finished our dream house. There is an unwritten law that when an architect finishes their house they must move. We resisted this for a while but eventually sold up and moved on to another even more challenging project.; building a new Thames barge, more on this later.

Would we have done anything differently. Yes. Use a general contractor rather than self project managing. They do know what they are doing and will save you their mark up in time and subcontractor margins. Don’t try so hard. We tried to include every green technology we could manage, some still in their infancy. It cost money and not many gave a return on the investment. We have a good feeling that we have done our bit for the environment but at a disproportionate cost.