Mid to Late 2000s



A 320 m2 earth-sheltered conference centre, St. Margaret’ s Bay, east Kent. At the time, it set new standards for UK buildings. The whole building is externally-insulated. The walls are constructed mainly of rammed chalk from the White Cliffs of Dover. For more on the energy strategy, see the owners’ website.

There are two intersecting masonry vaulted roofs. This technique originated in Catalonia, Spain but was taken to the north-eastern USA by emigrants and later reintroduced to Europe. Part of the building work was carried out by a Professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Winner of the Kent Business Environment Award 2006, Building magazine Sustainability Awards 2007, Sustainable Building of the Year (small project) Award, City of London Corporation Sustainable City Award 2007, Institution of Structural Engineers Building Awards 2007, David Alsop Sustainability Award and the Kent Design Awards in 2007/2008.




The Pines Calyx Conference Centre


Picture © the Bay Trust



Replacement for a 200 m2 cavity-walled post-War dwelling on the edge of a small Oxfordshire town. Includes energy efficiency and passive solar design features, reaching the AECB Silver Standard. A decision was taken to demolish rather than renovate to high thermal standards after making an evaluation of both options. This showed that the costs were similar but that over a 20 year period the new house would consume less fossil fuel, including that consumed in its construction.


Major retrofit of a rural house on the Oxon./Bucks. border. Detailed report on internal solid wall, solid floor, flat and pitched roof insulation and improvements to the heating system so as to reduce CO2 emissions.


New home in a hamlet in the Brecon Beacons National Park, south Wales. Given the ‘sensitive’ nature of the surroundings, the advice to the client was confined to those energy efficiency and passive solar features which could be added to the existing design proposals without changing the external appearance. The current proposals had already taken many years to obtain detailed planning consent.


Major retrofit of a detached 1960s bungalow in a small Oxfordshire town, aiming to reduce space heat consumption by around 75%.


New detached 250 m2 house in Anglesey, north Wales. Close to the Passivhaus Standard as regards energy efficiency. Despite a windy climate and exposed location, the projected peak heat demand is about 3 kW in severe weather. This was achieved by correct design and careful construction of the thermal envelope. The heat load is met by a LPG condensing boiler.





Near-Passivhaus dwelling, Anglesey viewed from the north-west.



Picture © Simon Phillips.



Replacement 500 m2 dwelling in the Metropolitan Green Belt. An earlier planning application had been rejected. A new design was prepared by a different architect in an effort to be more sympathetic to the site, hence more acceptable to the local planning authority. It was determined during this process that the ‘energy payback time’ of a new house which replaced the existing low-quality, very thermally-inefficient 1930s dwelling would be seven years.


Centre for Disability Studies, Rochford, Essex. Occupied by Disability Essex (DE), a local charity. DE made post-War planning history by receiving planning consent for its new offices on a ‘greenfield site’ in the Metropolitan Green Belt, just outside Rochford’s designated built-up area.

This very rare decision reflected the acknowledged importance of the charity’s work and the extent of the energy and environmental measures in the finished building. The new construction was certified to the Passivhaus Standard in 2010, becoming the first UK non-domestic building to meet this standard. It was certified BREAAM Excellent.

Extremely well-insulated and draughtproofed. Using the most energy-efficient lighting of 2008, the loading was reduced nearly three-fold versus a normal figure for the time while still providing recommended lighting levels throughout the building.

DE also constructed a separate solar PV system. This is mounted on a pergola. To quote the Bishop of Bradwell at the Centre’s blessing ceremony:


‘This beautiful building, with its inhabitants, resides at comfort with its surroundings, consuming little from the environment and contributing much to society.’ 


Centre for Disability Studies, Rochford, Essex






Viewed from the air, looking west







Viewed from the south-east, before the PV panels were fitted on the pergola.








Viewed from the south-west, showing the clerestory glazing and a courtyard garden.







Internal view of a typical office.


All pictures © Simmonds Mills Architects.



Energy design for a self-build house in west Devon. Although the groundworks had already been finished, major improvements were possible to the windows, the roof and the heating system. At this stage, the external walls could not be made significantly thicker. But by changing the constituent materials, it was possible to double their thermal resistance at a small extra cost.


Major refurbishment of a large 1950s cavity-walled detached house in a conservation area, Oxford. In the course of the work, it was improved to slightly above the AECB Silver Standard. The heat loss of the house’s external walls and roof was reduced roughly five-fold. Air leakage was cut by a factor of 4.5. The owners are delighted with the improvement in thermal comfort and with the good levels of natural light in the extension.


Assistance with the design of the UK’s first Passivhaus-certified dwelling, Y Foel, Machynlleth, Wales. Timber-frame construction. Building construction and architectural design by JPW Construction Ltd. More on the owners’ website.




Y Foel, Machynlleth, Wales viewed on a sunny cold winter day and a cloudy cold one.


Pictures © M. Tiramani.