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New build eco-house in Green Belt

The new dwelling seen from the East

In early 2022 our clients purchased a modest post-war bungalow near Wrington in North Somerset with a view to redevelop it and create a four bedroom family home. The existing bungalow is set in a generous plot with expansive, south facing views ranging from the Yeo valley to the Mendips to the Bristol channel.

DHV Architects were appointed to carry out a Feasibility Study exploring different strategies: refurbishing and extending the existing structure, or demolishing and building a new house. After developing several options in plan and 3D it became apparent that the scale of extension and alterations required to meet the brief would not warrant retention of the existing structure and a new build would be far better in terms of energy efficiency and buildability given the potential for off-site prefabrication.

Feasibility options

The site is outside of the village settlement boundaries and lies in Green Belt. The Avon Green Belt has been established around Bristol and Bath to prevent the unrestricted sprawl of urban areas and the merging of neighbouring towns. There are severe restrictions on new developments in Green Belt to preserve its open, rural character; however replacement dwellings can be allowed provided they meet certain criteria.

North Somerset Council’s adopted Planning Policy DM12 (Development within the Green Belt) states that any replacement building should not exceed 50% of the gross floor area of the original building (‘original’ relates to the building as existing on 26 July 1985) and it should not be out of scale and character with the surrounding area.

Working within these parameters we set out to refine our design to provide a generous, efficient four bedroom home which would make the most of the amazing southerly views.

Proposed ground floor plan

The new volume is articulated in a double storey linear block running east-west and a separate, single storey western outrigger. The outrigger is connected to the main block via a flat-roofed link and is slightly tilted to the west to open up views towards the Bristol Channel. The linear block provides four bedrooms (one en-suite) and a bathroom at first floor, and an open plan kitchen / dining / living room with service areas on the ground floor. All bedrooms and living areas enjoy a southerly aspect and open views. The ground floor outrigger contains additional accommodation such as a library and a gym.

The building configuration results in a sheltered external patio protected from the road noise yet enjoying extensive views to the south and east. A new landscaping scheme provides different external spaces to enhance the garden and anchor the building in its surroundings.

The ridge height of the proposed dwelling will not be higher than the existing house (just over 6.6m from ground level). The form and massing of the proposed house reflect the traditional farm buildings found in the surrounding landscape, reinterpreted in a contemporary way.

Proposed section

The south elevation is characterised by a large, distinctive chimney and a double storey gable. The elongated window openings are carefully proportioned and positioned to frame views. A free standing timber brise-soleil is set in front of the large sliding doors to shade the summer sun and prevent overheating. The few openings on the north elevation (facing the woodland) are grouped in larger panels, referencing the character of agricultural barns. A stone plinth runs along the north side of the house and projects out on the east elevation to support a covered entrance canopy. Three narrow, double height openings mark the new entrance on the east elevation and offer glimpses of the landscape beyond.

Proposed South Elevation

The south elevation will be mainly finished timber cladding, which will weather to a natural grey, with some buff pennant stone and a matt grey roof. These materials will help the dwelling harmonise with the dark trees behind and blend with the surrounding landscape when seen from the open farmland to the south.

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