Inspiration and advice for your building project
By his own admission, Christopher James has been described as “the Nutty Professor” for his proposals to build this Six-Sided Pyramid Glass Pavilion on a green belt clearing on his estate in Scissett, West Yorkshire—a radical design which not only meets Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH), but utilises an anti-flood device that will literally raise the house two metres above water. A house Christopher hopes will not just be a one-off, but a new template for prefabricated housebuilding.
Although a cursory glance at the proposals does little to curb any initial incredulity, delve a little deeper and you’ll see there is really nothing ‘nutty’ about it.
Firstly, the concept did not happen overnight: “The design has been a gradual evolution,” Christopher explains. “The building process in this country is so archaic. Thirty years ago, I realised things had to change and I’ve been swimming against the tide ever since.”
His deep love of glass meant that any house he designed would include a lot of it: “I’ve always been inspired by glass-dominant structures: particularly Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glasshouse and Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion. But the problem with these old houses is the horrendous heat loss and condensation.”
But then Christopher came across Belgian company IQGlass, who produces glazing that has virtually no heat loss and even actively heats. And so the Pyramid comprises both outer triple glazing with no thermal breaks and inner triple-glazed units, which creates atriums, then relies on natural principles to keep to a steady temperature. Christopher explains: “Air in the south-facing atrium is heated by the sun. This warm air is drawn by natural convection down the cooler northern atrium ready to be circulated through the ducted hypocaust (a hollow space) in the ground floor slab, heating it as it passes through.
“During the warmer months, cool air is automatically drawn in on the northern elevation, so the reverse happens.”
The house will also deploy state-of-the-art phase-change insulating energy storage. Phase-change is a relatively unknown concept which works by storing wax capsules in wall boards; when it gets too hot outside, the wax melts and soaks up the excess heat, keeping the inside cooler for longer. However, if the weather gets too cold, the wax solidifies and releases the stored heat.
Aside from this, ten tons of concrete will be subtly built into the structure to ensure high thermal mass; integral internal planting will provide natural air filtration; photovoltaic and solar collector modules will generate electricity and hot water; and both rainwater and greywater recycling will be incorporated.
And what of the anti-flood device—or Afdes (Automated Flood Defence Elevation System), as Christopher calls it? “A hydraulic mechanism will lift the building by a couple of metres automatically on sensing water. It’s so simple, I can’t believe anyone hasn’t thought of it before. This house is the test subject, but it’s been software engineered on a complex scale.”
Luckily the planners are very enthusiastic about the house. “One officer said it was one of the most exciting designs he had ever seen,” says Christopher, “but it will probably go to committee.”
An advocate of prefabricated building, Christopher intends his design to be the “Ferrari, Bentley or Aston Martin” of factory-built houses. Although he estimates the Pyramids could be erected in just two weeks, they will take over six months to fabricate upon ordering.
Visit puresilica.com for further information.