05 Jan 2018

Contemporary self-build nestles seamlessly into picturesque Perthshire hillside

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Nestled on a Perthshire hillside is something quite special; Caorann – an ultra-energy-efficient contemporary self-build which stands out for its unique, sophisticated design and innovation. It’s not only beautiful, but smart, built to follow ‘Active House’ principles meaning it gives more than it takes, creating a healthy and comfortable environment without negatively influencing the climate or environment.

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Having spent 15 years living in and renovating a beautiful Grade II Listed Georgian house, Gill and Stewart Siddall decided they wanted a change from a draughty and expensive house to heat. Inspired by their frequent business trips to Scandinavia, the couple soon developed ambitious plans to design and build a house that emulated these typically well-insulated and draught-free homes.

The Siddalls were immediately won over by the efficiency of pre-manufactured self-builds. Though being manufactured to pinpoint perfection off site, on-site construction is completed in a matter of days with minimal disturbance to the local surroundings. The all too frequent horror stories of spiralling costs and delays weren’t an issue with a fixed price and stringent build plan and, therefore, the pre-manufactured self-build route was the obvious choice.

The 7am start in late September saw the arrival of the specialist Hanse Haus construction team. “The whole process was precisely planned and worked like clockwork,” said Gill Siddall, who watched each piece of the house craned off and positioned methodically. By 10:30am, the west and south walls were in position and by the end of the day, the walls, windows and doors were in position. The following day saw the heavy materials, such as tiles and baths craned into the correct area of the house. By 4pm on day two, Caorann was erected and completely watertight. The Siddall’s plan to create an EnergyPlus house gave life to an eye-catching masterpiece. FSC-approved, non-chemically treated timber frame construction, and thick continuous glass wool insulation in all the walls and roof sections and other energy-saving technology, ensures minimal thermal losses and a snug airtight envelope that better retains heat and thus uses less energy to keep warm.

They adored their two acre plot for its wonderful views across the Perthshire valley to the Ochil Hills and with these views to die for, three sides of the house are dominated by huge triple-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows that invite these picture-book panoramic views inside. Alongside this, they also have a functional purpose – capturing natural sunlight to maximise solar gain. Clever large overhanging eaves stop overheating in the summer and additional automated external window shutters fitted with a sun sensor lower if the sun is too intense and provide an extra layer of insulation on cold winter nights.

With a number of large windows, glazing balustrades and glass stairwell there is a distinctive use of glass throughout which acts to bounce light around every room, enhancing the sense of space and providing a seamless transition between internal living and the great outdoors. The interior is a spacious 311m², with the lower ground floor (or basement) being used as a master bedroom with an en-suite, dressing room, sitting room and office. There is also a twin guest room, with an en-suite at the rear, all of which are flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The kitchen and living areas are on the ground floor and are all open-plan interconnecting spaces, dominated by windows and that maximise the impressive view. There is a further bedroom at the front of the house with its own large circular balcony with glass balustrade and en-suite bathroom. A hallway giving access to the various rooms runs the width of the house and joins a stunning oak and glass staircase, connecting the lower ground floor with the ground floor.

Timber cladding and local stone ensures Caorann blends into the hillside and the surrounding two acres have been dedicated to wildlife; a native wildflower meadow and wildlife pond have been created to enrich native species.

Notably, the house is EnergyPlus, powered solely by electricity and renewable energy, such as solar panels, a ground source heat pump and heat recovery ventilation. Combined with the extremely well-insulated and airtight shell, the house generates 10% more electricity than it needs, with the excess being exported to the National Grid. Falling into an EPC and C02 band A, it is near Passivhaus standard.

“It’s exceeded our expectations – it’s just a wonderful house to live in. We love the height of the ceilings. The floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the beautiful views and even the smaller windows frame the scenery a bit like a picture on the wall. The house really works with its surroundings. Because the house is so well insulated, we have a constant warm temperature and it is completely draught-free, of course!.

“Perhaps most excitingly though is the fact that we are generating more electricity in a year than we import from the grid. With the feed-in tariff the house is actually making us money,” said Stewart Siddall.

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