30 Jun 2017

Energy efficiency is at the core of an Essex family's barn conversion

James Gray and wife Claudia set out to transform 30 acres of farmland in north Essex into a unique timber home for the entire family. Energy efficiency was a key driver within their brief, so the implementation of high-performing floor insulation, Celotex FI5000, was used.


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Whilst their ambition was to create an energy-efficient, child-friendly home, this was to be no ordinary project: the land was once home to a Second World War airbase, occupied by the USAF’s 381st bombardment group, complete with the finest surviving nissen hut complexes still remaining in the UK. Therefore, James and Claudia were determined to discover and re-shape the underlying history engraved within the Essex farmland.

Working with such unusual surroundings posed a fundamental question to the design team: how could they approach the historic structure of the nissen huts with care and sensitivity?

The design itself comprised two elements: a ‘public’ space complete with a living room area and kitchen, alongside a ‘family’ space with bedrooms and bathrooms. Carefully positioned rooflights ensure the property is well-lit by diffused natural light, whilst the independent areas are intertwined by a walkway leading to the heart of the property – a central courtyard providing a safe repose for the children.

In order to integrate the proposed design with the land’s historic past, steel tension rods and curved roofing were introduced into the timber framework to create an interesting juxtaposition of old and new. This contemporary adaptation of steel and timber suggests that the property has long been nurtured with the surrounding landscape, with the use of steel rods also allowing much greater flexibility in the internal layout.

Another consideration, aside from the architectural design, was to ensure that the project build was highly energy-efficient. By using dynamic thermal modelling to predict the home’s performance, Designer Cameron was able to fully optimise the use of floor and glazing construction to best ensure the building maintains the right temperatures all year round.

175mm of Celotex FI5000 was specified for the flooring insulation; this premium value-added product, with a lambda value of ‘0.21 W/mK’, made it the best possible thermal performance choice for the specification. Manufactured from rigid polyisocyanurate (PIR), Celotex FI5000 is constructed using a blowing agent that achieves zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a low global warming potential (GWP).

Celotex's flooring insulation product also eliminated the need for an additional separating layer, as the product features an innovative cement compatible composite facer with a built-in vapour control layer. Due to its high compressive strength rating of ≤175 kPa and excellent dimensional stability, the installers were also able to walk on the insulation directly during the entire installation process. An added benefit is the increased clip retention capabilities that the industry-leading compressive strength achieves.

This spectacular, energy-efficient home demonstrates how James and Claudia succeeded in changing the dynamics of this once industrial site, transforming a rather unforgiving place into a home of warmth and beauty. Just as it was no ordinary farmland, they’re also continuing to treat the completed renovation as more than just their property, by opening up the building for special weekends to celebrate and preserve the remarkable achievements from the Second World War.

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