Cornwall Life visits Tregullas, a £1m eco home overlooking glorious Truro countryside

PUBLISHED: 11:03 13 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:12 26 February 2013

Self-build allows an opportunity to make the most of the light<br/><br/>Photo: Ewen Macdonald

Self-build allows an opportunity to make the most of the light<br/><br/>Photo: Ewen Macdonald

Little Tregullas is a split-level, multi award-winning, eco house set in three-quarters of an acre and boasting unrivalled views across Cornwall.

Cutting no corners


An award-winning home near Truro needed close attention by its owners during the build, as they tell Carol Burns

Retirement marked the start of a big adventure for Alan and Sue Redington a 1million eco self-build house overlooking the glorious Cornish countryside

Little Tregullas is a split-level, multi award-winning, eco house set in three-quarters of an acre and boasting unrivalled views across Cornwall.

Home to Alan, a retired GP, and his wife Sue, a retired architect, they admit that although looking for to move, they werent looking to take on a self-build project. Instead they were newly retiring and looking for somewhere less isolated and closer to family in which to spend their later years.

But we just couldnt find something we liked, Sue admits. In June 2009, she came across a plot of land for sale, while husband Alan was on holiday in Spain. By the time he had returned, she had put in an offer and the land was theirs.

The couple had carried out a barn conversion for their previous home, but it was the first time they faced an empty plot of land and all its possibilities (planners notwithstanding). The couple mortgaged their existing home to pay for the building works, which began 15 months later.

Built into naturally sloping land just minutes outside of Truro, it has manmade banks created out of excavated soil, making its three-story structure near-invisible from the road. As a keen gardener, Sue wanted to bring the outside in and this is achieved through triple glazed German-designed windows. Ecologically, this helped to make the best use of passive solar heating and the houses geographical position in the sunniest place in the UK.

The land came with approved plans by Cornwall-based architects ARCO2 Architecture Ltd. Sue had one clear ambition: to make the most of the lands southern aspects and began redesigning the plans. The complicated corners added cost, admits Sue, But it was done to keep the views and make as much use of the sun as possible. We kept the above ground part more or less the same as the original plan.


If anything starts to go awry you have got to nip it in the bud. You have to check everything and make sure its as you want it

We wanted to step the roofs because I wanted the flow of the building to fit with the site. We didnt want it to stick up too much and that was a plus for the planners.

The front door opens to the ground floor hall, with a large living area and kitchen through to a south-east facing sunroom. The top floor houses a study and studio accessed by an elegant spiral staircase in the corner of the evening room. The clever spiral stairs were designed as part of the structure, holding up the floor above.

Heading downstairs from the hall, the lower ground floor corridor sits below ground, using two sun tunnels for its natural light. Off the corridor, three ensuite bedrooms look out at ground level.

The house is filled with personal design quirks; the kitchen features two sinks a necessary addition, says Sue, to preserve conjugal felicity. We have always fought over doing something at the kitchen sink, she says. The kitchen area also leads to a deck across a bridge, while a feature wall in the kitchen uses reclaimed tiles saved from the skip by one of their daughters at a local hotel undergoing refurbishment.

The house has already won a Green Apple Award for its ecological design which features MVHR (mechanical ventilation heat recovery) system provides fresh filtered pre-warmed air in the majority of the rooms. The heat is extracted from wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchen, which is transferred to the incoming fresh air. This system in combination with a breathable construction results in a very healthy and fresh environment with low levels of humidity.

For Alan and Sue, the MVHR combined with solar panels which can generate 2kw an hour it means very, very low energy bills. The heating system is set to kick in below 20 degrees, says Alan, and even throughout the winter, it rarely came on.

But the ecological aspects had their cost: The main reason the building went over time was that nobody realised how much time it would take to do the air-tightness, says Sue.

Other clever uses of available heat include feeding the uncovered flue of the woodburning stove in the evening room into the study on the mezzanine floor above. We tend to use the study in the morning and have a fire in the evening so it works quite well. The house also has a sealed pantry. The interior door is sealed to preserve the integrity of the rest of the building, but the pantry has vents to the outside, which keeps it at an ambient temperature.

The above ground structure is clad in Canadian cedar said to last longer than British cedar and external walls utilise old newspapers for insulation. A single slate pitched roof above the main living space creates a high ceiling, while the flat roofs are sedam living roofs of tightly knit carpet-like plants, designed to help moderate temperature. Sue is planting up her own version above the garage, creating a sloping daisy lawn.

When tendering the contract for the build, the couple purposely kept several areas they wanted to do themselves. This included the kitchen, the light fittings and the sanitary wear. It helped control costs and allowed them to source locally where possible.

We were down here every day, says Alan. If anything starts to go awry you have got to nip it in the bud. You have to check everything and make sure its as you want it how ever many professionals you employ; its down to you to get it right.

Despite their vigilance, there were a few unexpected results: a supporting buttress was needed across the ceiling of the sunroom, which has now become a useful plant support. You have to make an advantage out of a necessity, says Sue.

The couple moved in to the house in September in 2011, but the contractors finally finished in time for Christmas six months after the initial completion date allowing them an extended family Christmas in their new home.

The gardens are our priority now, admits Sue. We are outside an awful lot of the time, one way or another. And the highpoint of the build? The builders were all lovely, says Alan, but seeing the back of them was probably the best bit!


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