01 Dec 2017

If I only had a brain...

This striking energy-efficient home is quietly nestled in the peaceful grounds of a Grade II Listed property in South Oxfordshire. A small stream curls around the front of the property, giving it a sense of tranquillity and separation from the main house.


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Embarking on this self-build, James Barrett – Loxone Partner and Director of Ashbrook Homes – was excited by the opportunity to create a unique smart home for his own family.

A smart home for the whole family

As the building is dug into a hill, there is only one side of natural light and this means that most of the home is only one room deep. The living and kitchen area is open-plan with a small staircase leading off to the kids’ snug and playroom. Along the lower corridor are the three bedrooms that each have their own small en-suite and walk-in wardrobe that is nestled neatly up against the rear retaining wall. The master bedroom has its own sliding glass doors that take you out onto the decking, overlooking the stream. There is a larger master walk-in wardrobe and en-suite, complete with bath and separate shower. The last room at the end of the building is a working office.

The power of nature

A rooftop garden with natural wood decking and a glass balustrade help this home to stay true to its surroundings. Solar panels have been well-placed along the rooftop garden to harness the power of the sun.

In addition to the photovoltaics, this energy-efficient home features underground and zoned heating controlled by the Loxone Smart Home system. This intelligent energy management means the temperature of each room automatically adjusts to suit the way the family uses their home.

The discreet integration of technology throughout the home was an important part of the build specification. For example, the property is south facing with a wall of windows to let light into the rooms, so self-cooling was important. Using the Loxone Miniserver, the blinds automatically adjust to keep the room at the desired temperature. The home is built into a hill, so there is an extraction system that understands when humidity reaches a certain level and kicks in to remove moisture as required.

Smart features

• Automated shading with a long line of smart blinds that react to indoor temperature and the orientation of the sun to prevent the largely glass exterior of the property from overheating.
• Smart lighting that changes to create the right ambience, for example, with different colours, brightness and ‘warmth’ settings that are perfect for different rooms and times of day. Plus, no more worrying about the little ones leaving the lights on.
• Multi-room audio across the entire home, which can be used to play specific music or radio stations in different rooms, depending on personal taste.
• A smart burglar alarm that ties in with the multi-room audio, playing loud music and flashing lights to deter burglars.
• Underground and ‘zoned’ heating makes sure every room is the ideal temperature, with sensors regulating the heating, so there’s no need for radiator valves, heating controls or smartphone apps to change the temperature.

The perfect experience

“We wanted to create a home that provided the perfect living experience for my family, with a ‘wow’ factor that really set it apart from traditional new builds,” said James. “Design was the primary focus, but I also wanted to incorporate home automation throughout the home. Working with smart home provider, Loxone, we were able to create ideal living spaces throughout the property, where smart technology completely complements all the design aspects.

“Of course, as we also needed to consider the property’s Grade II Listed surroundings, design was still imperative. To enable the home to blend in with the background, we used sweet chestnut cladding that silvers with time and natural Cotswold stone facework. To complete the buried/underground look, the roof had to be a grass lawn rather than sedum. Richard and the team at RPA Architects did a fantastic job of making the building suit its environment.”

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