Gerry and Susan Goldwyre’s innovative new home was built from sustainable, local materials to a tight budget.
Gerry and Susan’s new self-built home, ‘RP9’, is essentially a “hidden” timber woodland dwelling, low slung and almost subsumed in greenery — quite a change from the apex of one of the finest Victorian industrial structures in the area, an octagonal polychrome brick water tower where the couple had lived for the previous 23 years.
The current project, built in the couple’s woodland garden, set in a Conservation Area on the outskirts of Edinburgh, had been in their minds for the last 10 years. “The site is very special, having a view of beautiful woodland, a spectacular river and park,” says Gerry. “We had a gazebo on the site for 11 years, and we wanted to use the same kind of construction on our new house.”
This construction involved “a gargantuan” amount of timber both inside and out, in order to integrate the building into its unique setting. As a result, all external finishes for the walls, the roof and windows are certified sustainable softwood grown in Scotland.
“The roof and wall claddings are just good old Scottish sarking,” explains Gerry. “It’s very unusual to have a timber roof but it blends in beautifully with the woodland.”
It’s not only the roof that’s unique: instead of a traditional concrete slab foundation, the Goldwyres used a low-tech foundation system that consists of 50 adjustable concrete pads. These supporting posts can be manually adjusted, and as Gerry explains: “These adjustments will allow for any movement that may arise from tree root growth in the ground below.”
Internally, the use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) has ensured much greater spans than could have been achieved with traditional timber frame construction. It also means a building that boasts half the U-value that is required by the Building Regulations, resulting in an extremely high-performance house.
Spatially, the house designed by Gerry is effectively only two rooms, with one main living/kitchen/dining area downstairs linked by a spiral staircase to the open plan en suite bedroom on the upper level. The finishes are also simple, featuring white walls and pitch pine floors in the main living area.
The galley kitchen also leads directly to an outside cooking area, specified by Gerry, a two-time winner of BBC’s MasterChef. “I love cooking but in an open plan house it’s great to cook at the time, but next morning the smell of chicken tikka masala in the bedroom isn’t wonderful. So the idea is that I can cook all the smelly stuff outside under cover.”
Following a 12-month hands-on construction process, the couple moved into RP9 in June 2009 – the name is in recognition of Rural Planning Policy 9, which concerns the protection of river valleys . “The house is not grandiose — it’s a simple design, square in plan. But I’d like to think it’s a clever design. We always wanted somewhere that would be a big, fun party house and now we have it.”