Take two sustainable building experts, add a half-acre plot of land and stand back as they build something truly inspirational — combining good practical design with intelligent building controls and pioneering materials to significantly reduce energy usage. Dr Kerry Mashford and Dr Frank Ainscow both have extensive experience in the field of sustainable design, and constructed their previous home in 1994 as part of the Future World exhibition in Milton Keynes — a project which they completed in just four months.

“We lived there happily for 14 years before selling it to free up capital for our next self-build project,” explains Frank. “The plot we eventually chose was once the farmhouse of Bacon House Farm — as you might guess, a pig farm. The pigs were long gone, but the soil remains fertile and we expect to get good yields of home-grown fruit and vegetables. It’s about half an acre in size and almost flat, with a fall of about two metres from north to south — just enough to make the drains work.”

The Project

  • Name: Kerry Mashford and Frank Ainscow
  • Build cost: £550,000 (£1,571/m²)
  • Build time: 1 year
  • Location: Buckinghamshire

Kerry and Frank have two teenage sons – Sam, 16 and Luke, 14 – who were also excited by the prospect of seeing their new home being built. The family worked with concept architect Jason King to design their innovative sustainable home — a 350m² new build in the Buckinghamshire countryside which the planners supported wholeheartedly. A shabby prefabricated bungalow stood on the plot, which had already been granted planning consent for a replacement dwelling.

Building work could finally commence in February 2010, after a process lasting more than two years —involving design and costing refinements, two planning applications, and a struggle to find a builder willing to take on such an individual project.

Various problems arose during the construction of the shell of the externally insulated house, including issues with blockwork, the structural steelwork, rendering and the number of trickle vents required to meet Building Regulations.

A two storey winter garden, made from double-glazed argon-filled units, forms part of the south-west elevation and acts as a solar collector in the winter and a cooling device in summer. It draws warm air from the house in summer, while air entering through trickle vents and open windows on the north side cools the building down. On sunny days in the winter the space fills with heated air, which flows into the house — where a destratifier carries it from near the roof to the ground floor.

The original predicted 39-week build programme overran, and somewhat inevitably the delays and unexpected issues led to an over-spend, which was around £50,000 more than the original quantity surveyor’s valuation, but the completed house was ultimately deemed a success. Finished externally in a combination of off-white render and vertical timber, punctuated by stylishly understated windows, the building makes a bold contemporary statement. “Now we’re thoroughly enjoying all the light and space the house has to offer,” says Kerry, “and even on a winter’s day it’s always wonderfully warm.”

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