05 May 2015

Weathered beauty: Derelict gasworks becomes part of a striking new home


A Gloucestershire extension project has incorporated the refurbishment of a derelict gasworks, transforming it into a sensational contemporary annex for the nineteenth century home.


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When this nineteenth century stone cottage gained a new owner with a passion for restoring derelict buildings, the homeowner hoped to convert the dilapidated gasworks that stood just behind his home into a useful living space.

Situated within a quiet, rural Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the gasworks was built in 1877. With the industrial revolution transforming society, gas began to be manufactured in England in 1812. Small gasworks such as this one provided gas for lighting country houses. Victorian gasholders were large cylindrical vessels constructed from various materials, including steel and wrought iron. In the early twentieth century the development of local gas mains, alternative gas making apparatus and the widespread growth of electricity pushed the use of small gasworks into extinction.

This particular Gloucestershire gasworks, located by a quiet, minor road, was severely rundown. The homeowner employed Chris Dyson Architects to transform the space into a large house that met both his current and future needs. From the project’s inception, the brief for the new building focused on the need to reduce the overall environmental impact during the construction process, as well as meeting the future demands for heating and electricity.

While preserving and giving new life to the existing cottage, Chris Dyson Architects knew the cottage would require additional space to suit future needs of living, so the studio adopted a Cotswold Typology of the 'Barn' to form a new contemporary single storey extension without over developing the cottage. The renovated rusty steel barn is clad in CorTen steel because this is one of the most recycled building materials available. The use of steel also pays homage to the gasworks’ history and heritage. The steel envelope sits on a sustainably sourced timber frame and recognises the building's industrial past, while creating a striking contrast to the main building. The new annex is deliberately distinct from its surroundings, but the creative use of materials and massing works gently with the landscape, encircling an external courtyard.

Harry Whittaker, Principal Partner of Chris Dyson Architects, comments: “We looked for a contrasting material which would create a strong patina with time. It is a very recyclable material as steel is one of the most recycled building materials available and retains an extremely high overall recycling rate. In 2012 this stood at 88%.”

The finished space is a 120m2 single storey annex with a circular tower element which recalls the former gas storage cylinder on the site. The tower is now home to home office study spaces. Insulation to both walls and the roof is taken to a higher level than is required under the building regulations and is made up of Warmcell Insulation. This product is manufactured from recycled waste paper which is converted to a green, eco-friendly high performance insulation.

The architect’s vision was to adopt a Gloucestershire styled annex with a contemporary look that didn’t interfere with the nineteenth century cottage. The annex is therefore accessed by a link from the kitchen of the cottage and becomes a corridor connecting the en-suite bedrooms. Each bedroom is arranged to create a horseshoe, forming a courtyard around the back of the building.

Stunning vista

Inside the annex, a glazed portico links four bedrooms with private services. Each room enjoys spectacular views onto the natural woodland. Large windows on the roof flood the interior with daylight. Chris Dyson Architects embraced the homeowner’s culture of sustainability by applying the most efficient techniques offered by building performance science. Passive ventilation, a biomass boiler room, rain water harvesting systems and solar power panels dramatically reduce the environmental impact of the development.

Heating is supplied via an external air source heat pump, which supplies heat to the underfloor heating system. Although not a truly renewable source of heating the system does significantly reduce the electrical demand to the building. This results in a lower home carbon emission which, along with the photovoltaic panels fitted to the roof, means that the electrical demand is significantly lower than a conventional home.

Harry adds: “This project has been fascinating in terms of tying together issues of sustainability, adaptation and alteration to a historic industrial structure and building within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the heart of the Cotswolds.”

This project is a valuable addition to Gloucestershire’s prestigious building stock. It brings an imaginative, yet sensitive, redevelopment of the site with a scheme that champions the concept of sustainability in the area.

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