This Eco House Thrives on Solar Energy and Rainwater Harvesting

This new cabin building in Stalham Staithe, Norfolk Broads has been designed to passive house principles by London based studio Forrester Architects. The Norfolk and the Suffolk Broads is Britain’s largest protected wetland. With the status of a national park, this wetland is a particularly sensitive location to new eco-building developments. The local environment at this location is dominated by the large expanse of water, the Barton Broads. The environment is interspersed between the water courses are rich and varied collections of cabin buildings. There are attractive views in all directions you look. The roofs of these eco buildings of the Broads act as visual markers within the landscape and also aid in orientation.

From the beginning, the eco-building project the client was keen to provide a responsive and sustainable solution with the garden pond to remain the central feature. The new eco housing is approximately 1,200 square feet and comprises of a kitchen, an open plan living room, a dining room, three bedrooms and bathrooms and a dedicated utility/plant room. The ubiquitous barn style house profile provides a simple form of accommodation, which predominates in the local area. The proposed eco housing draws reference from the vernacular forms, buiding materials and how they are positioned in the landscape. The proposed location of the cabin building aims to contribute to the local character resulting in a considered roof-scape.

From the initial stages of the cabin building design, it was developed under the passive house planning package. The passive house planning project was used as a key design tool and was used to refine the cabin building to ensure an energy efficient solution. A passive house is a voluntary cabin building standard. The principles of the passive house (Passivhaus) concept aims to reduce the need for cooling and space heating. This is accomplished by adopting a fabric first approach to the home design with high levels of insulation to the thermal envelope with high levels of air tightness. The need for heating is reduced to the point where a traditional heating system is not considered to be essential. For example, the cabin building is orientated due south but has been turned a further 10 degrees more to the East. In the early morning, the bedrooms in the eco-housing gain warmth a little earlier from the solar gain from the sun as it begins to rise. East facing clerestory bedroom windows have also been incorporated into the cabin building fabric.

The building materials used in this home design are simple yet robust. The eco-housing is clad with rough sawn untreated Siberian Larch, which is used for the walls and also across the entire roof. The solar panels on the eco-housing appear flush and integrated into the roof. The installation of the solar thermal and photovoltaic panels help to supplement the environmental strategy. A sustainable drainage solution was employed. The sustainable drainage proposal adopts many techniques. There is a water permeable terrace that collects treats and stores the rainwater to then release the water into the environment. There is also a rainwater harvesting system that has also been incorporated for the provision of garden irrigation.

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