Helen and Burnett Lunan have built a striking eco home using natural and sustainable materials, for their retirement.

When Helen and Burnett planned to self-build, they knew that above all else their new home should be conducive to their health and well-being. Not surprising, perhaps, given that both have recently retired from medical careers.

Helen worked as a GP in Bishopbriggs, just outside Glasgow. It was through her treatment of asthma sufferers that Helen became aware of the harmful effects of house-building chemicals and as a result, the couple agreed their home would be built using natural materials wherever possible.

Another determining factor for the Lunans was their concern for the environment. Burnett puts it this way: “Our thoughts were focused on the world that will be inherited by our five grandchildren. We wanted to create a building which was energy efficient and would have a low environmental impact.”

And so, with a healthy, eco-friendly home in mind, the couple searched for a plot in rural Perthshire. In October 2002 they secured a one-acre site close to the village of Kinrossie, for just under £100,000. However, progress stalled when dealings with their first two architects hit the sand. “It took us a while to find an architect who was in tune with our environmental aims,” explains Burnett.

The third architect they approached, Sam Russell of LDN Architects, was able to translate Helen’s sketches into the four-bed home that now stands on the site. Rather than create a ‘uniform box’, the plans included an attached garage, positioned at a slight angle so as to create a wind break for the main house. Similarly the potting shed has the same aesthetic as the rest of the building and is connected to the main house by virtue of a covered walkway.

Dubbed Newhall Cottage, every aspect of the new house’s design and construction was carefully thought through. The low-pitched roof is covered by aluminium, specified because the material can be easily recycled, whilst most of the stone which features in the house came from a ruined cottage which resided on the site.

Another consequence of having been a family GP is that Helen is cognisant of how householders’ requirements change over the years. “So many people stay in houses that are unsuitable and do not make plans to move whilst they still can,” she says. As such, the couple have designed the kitchen to be as user-friendly as possible, as well as locating the master bedroom and en suite facilities on the ground floor.

Although the couple’s build costs ended up significantly over budget, the expense has not been a major cause of regret for Helen and Burnett. “We were trying to show how houses can be built. As a society we have to start sourcing building materials locally and making our homes more energy efficient. If we can’t do it as retired doctors, then who can?” Helen expresses.

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