Pivoting off the grid

Nick Myall
15 May 2017

Studio Bark receives full planning approval for Pivot House; an off-grid Paragraph 55 country home in Norfolk

Studio Bark have recently received full planning approval for Pivot House, an innovative, off-grid Paragraph 55 home in Norfolk. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) Paragraph 55 allows individual countryside homes to be built, provided that they reflect the highest standards of architecture, sustainability and innovation. Pivot House is a rigorously environmental family residence, designed for a family of local builders. 

The house is arranged around a central courtyard and through a series of ‘wings’ that define the different uses of the house. The bedrooms are situated to the North and predominantly dug into the ground, whereas the open plan kitchen, dining room, and living room open up to the south and southeast to maximise natural light, ventilation and views out across the landscape.

The design is envisaged as a direct response to the intrigue and beauty of the undulating landscape. The geometry of the roof structure spirals from a central ‘pivot’ to its climax at the most southerly point. The northern edge and approach to the building sits low in the land, allowing approaching visitors panoramic views up and over the soft green roof planes. 

Flint gabion rainscreens provide an innovative / low-energy alternative to traditional Norfolk flint walling and a nod to local Norfolk vernaculars. The interpretation of this locally sourced material creates an aesthetic of solidarity, using an affordable resource found in the surrounding terrain. Combining this heavy weight material with a biodiverse green roof presents the illusion that the form is growing from the landscape.

The weight and solidity is contrasted in the courtyard, which uses softer and more tactile materials, including locally sourced Western Red Cedar cladding and fine glazing to create a contrasting, yet peaceful space.

As a practice focused on the environment, this proposal is to be environmentally responsible through a careful selection of materials combined with rigorous technical detailing. Natural materials have been specified where possible to provide a healthy internal air-quality, whilst ensuring that the building’s embodied energy requirement is kept to an absolute minimum through the use of on-site and locally sourced materials. 

The entire proposal is set to react to future energy shortfalls and hence will be completely ‘Off-Grid’. Energy for the building will come from a solar PV array, hidden in the parapet of the sunken garage, but will be backed up by the latest biofuel generator. Heating and hot water will be provided by a combination of a log batch biomass boiler, a ground source heat pump and a mechanical ventilation / heat recovery system. Potable water will be provided via a newly dug bore hole and water from the roof will be harvested for   maintenance of the new planting in the courtyard.

Commenting on the project, Wilf Meynell, Director, Studio Bark said, “Pivot House gave us the chance to address a very beautiful but immensely challenging landscape. The ecology and biodiversity of the site is rich with life, yet currently unappreciated and poorly maintained. By gently nestling a contextual building into the site and through implementing a phased landscaping design we hope to realise a building which not only provides a fantastic low-energy home to a young family, but also significantly enhances the ecological potential of this unique setting”.

Councillor Paul Claussen, Breckland Council added, “A dwelling of this calibre and design should be encouraged and the idea of going off grid is completely unique and very sustainable.” 

Nick Myall

News editor

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