PUBLISHED: 17:45 17 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:05 30 August 2017

CWL APR 15 homes Elim House 02

CWL APR 15 homes Elim House 02

Shortlisted for a national architectural award in recognition of its environmental credentials, Elim House near Mylor is a cutting edge carbon neutral eco-house

Shortlisted for a national architectural award in recognition of its environmental credentials, Elim House near Mylor is a cutting edge carbon neutral eco-house – but to the young family who live there it is simply home

Ask any architect and they will probably admit that working with clients to create the perfect home can be challenging – meeting their desires and their budgets, working out what is feasible and what is the stuff of dreams - but what happens when that client is also the managing director of the company?

Justin Dodge is managing director of Truro-based CSA Architects, and had lived in the existing house on the site of his family’s new house for six years – and wanted to replace it with a sustainable, carbon neutral family home that would be as off grid’ as possible. But unlike many environmentally-friendly building features which are hidden away like an ugly and unwanted family heirloom, Justin wanted people to be able to see the home’s eco elements.

His brief for the design was to see these elements reflected in the architecture - but this is no (well-insulated) mudhut, Elim House wears its aesthetic credentials on its sleeve as much as its ecological ones. And it has been created with luxurious materials and bespoke features that befit an architectural designer, who names Charles Rennie MacIntosh among his inspirations.

Combined with distinctive large local stone and natural timber cladding, Elim House also features a wild meadow roof helping it to blend into the landscape that forms part of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The building nestles into its green setting, against a backdrop of agricultural fields and trees where the views from the house are as stunning as views of the house.

The home has a super-insulated timber frame construction, to create a thermally efficient building. Elim House is south-facing and uses roof overhangs and integrated brise-soleil to control heat from the sun.

We enter the house through a stunning glazed link entrance which gives a real sense of arrival as well as showcasing the building with the local stone walls and timber cladding. Within the home there is a large open plan kitchen/dining room with bi-fold doors, to maximise versatility and create inside/outside living space. The living room features a double-sided integrated woodburner linking it to the kitchen/dining room and helping to bring the rooms together.

The house has six double bedrooms, including a master bedroom suite with en-suite, dressing room and private roof terrace. The practical elements of living are also taken care of with a utility room, laundry room and even a plant room to help create a fantastic garden from the 1.5 acre site that it sits on. Family life is well catered for with a gym and games room, as well as an office.

The house is cleverly divided into two blocks, each one representing the public and private elements of the house; keeping the sleeping quarters separated from the main living spaces maximises privacy - and allows for entertaining friends and family, without disturbing young children in their beds.

Thanks to the stepped composition of the two blocks which make up the house, the entire first floor overlooks the ground floor and across to the wider landscape beyond. The building disappears’ into the landscape, from distant viewpoints into the site.

As an architectural designer, Justin has supervised more than 2,500 projects during his time with the company, and he admits the opportunity to design his own house and be the client is a dream come true. I have always wanted to design my own house,’ admits Justin. It has been an ambition of mine from a very early age, following in the footsteps of my parents who built their own home when I was five years old, which left an indelible mark on me.

I love the challenge of designing houses for our wide ranging client base, but to do your job properly, you have to design a building for their tastes, requirements and to express their personality. So, the opportunity to design my own home, with my wife, was a really exciting prospect. With a growing family, we were able to design a truly bespoke house, to respond directly to our personal needs and entirely focused around our ethos, to live in a carbon neutral home.

It also gave the opportunity to use materials that my clients had historically steered away from, such as the grassed, wild meadow roof, for which we created our own construction method.

I have always admired the work of internationally-renowned architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Rennie Macintosh, who took architecture beyond simply the fabric of the building, but even designed furniture and considered detailed interior design, in what I describe as “total architecture”. We commissioned one-off pieces of furniture that I designed, such as the dining table and cantilevered dresser. We have also had full control of the landscaping, which continues to evolve and further helps this building to nestle into the site.’

Completed in time for Christmas, and for Justin to welcome a new addition to his family in February, they are now getting down to the business of living in the house.

We are so happy with the end result, and living with the design, it has seriously enriched our quality of life. It is such a wonderful endorsement in my profession, to have this experience and to be able to passionately convey how a bespoke, well-designed home can significantly improve everyday life.’

What is a passive house?

The completed building features passive ventilation, super-insulation, excellent air tightness and a controlled internal environment, together with a solar thermal hot water system, a large array of solar PV (9.5Kw – so the house generates more electricity than it consumes) together with air source heating system, linked to underfloor heating, as well as having its own private water supply and sewerage.

Justin wanted to store the topsoil, stripped from the site, and put it back’ to form the roof of the new house. Not only does this full, soil meadow roof provide fantastic insulation, but it also reduces surface water run-off, by watering the grass and wildflower meadow.

It also enhances the bio-diversity of the project, creating a habitat, and architecturally, it helps minimise any visual impact of the house in the wider, sensitive Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, landscape.

This article first appeared in Cornwall Life May 2015

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