11 Feb 2022

Head for the Hills

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Built into a rugged hillside overlooking the extensive natural coastline in South Wales, a new-build family home with a sustainable vision is now complete. Designed by award-winning architect firm, Loyn + Co, the home, which blends naturally into the verdant landscape and sits beneath towering pine trees, makes extensive use of Kebony, a global leader in the production of sustainable wood, for the home’s facade.

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The design brief for the new home was to make the most of the beautiful views, capturing the potential of the sensitive location and prioritising the contextual importance of the site, topography and existing trees. As keen gardeners, the clients also wanted a house that would be suitable for the warm months and harsher winters. The dwelling is partially cut into the site and organised to have incredible sea views and arranged so that a central atrium planted with specimen trees provides a winter garden and an inspiring circulation space serving each of the three levels and putting nature at the centre of the home.

The family home – which has been cut into the valley side amongst established trees – uses Kebony wood extensively. This diverts the need for deforestation by transforming sustainable wood species, such as pine, into Kebony wood with comparable features, and in some cases superior, to those of precious tropical hardwoods.

Following the COP26 climate summit, which saw 100 world leaders promise to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, Loyn + Co’s decision to make extensive use of sustainably-sourced Kebony wood for the stunning new-build home reflects the global shift to favour sustainable materials in construction. This will soon become imperative for architects, homebuilders and developers to rapidly curb the impacts of climate change, including the destruction of trees, which depletes forests that absorb vast amounts of CO2.

Here, i-Build’s Editor, Rebecca Kemp, talks to James Stroud, Director at Loyn + Co Architects, and Nina Landbø, International Sales Manager at Kebony, about the design and material details that made the project such a great success.

Loyn + Co Architects

RK: What was the vision behind this sustainable build?
JS: The owners wanted a modern, attractive and sustainable home. In response to this, we looked to design a build that complemented its surroundings whilst not having a detrimental impact on the nature that they are so fond of. The existing dwelling on the site did not interact with the complex topography of the site and did not offer views out to the beach. Our vision was to work with the levels and existing trees to create an efficient home.

RK: How does the building fit with the surrounding landscape?
JS: Beautifully situated on the rugged Welsh coastline, the new-build home has made extensive use of Kebony for the home’s facade, blending naturally into the verdant surrounding landscape. At the lower level, where the build is set into the ground, we have used local stone to embed the design and reference the solidity of this level as a base to the lighter, Kebony-clad upper levels. Overlooking the coast, the home is framed by towering pine trees, meaning it was essential to ensure it was in keeping with the area’s natural appearance. The Kebony wood and stone have a tone and quality that allows them to blend with their surroundings, which is reinforced by the horizontal nature of the building.

RK: Why did you choose to use Kebony for this project?
JS: The way in which Kebony wood ages and silvers mean that its tone is perfect for this site. Additionally, the use of Kebony ensures structural stability and durability even in exposed locations, as well as being particularly low maintenance, which has often proved popular with homeowners. We, and the clients, share a passion for detail and the option to use a secret fixing detail was another advantage.

RK: Would you recommend Kebony to other architects?
JS: Yes, there are considerable benefits of using Kebony – a highly-durable, sustainable wood with the aesthetics and performance of the best tropical hardwoods. We would be pleased to recommend it as a reliable material to other architects.

RK: What were the key challenges faced?
JS: A key challenge of the project was obtaining consent for a replacement dwelling within an area of outstanding natural beauty for a contemporary design that is not commonplace. We were, however, supported in our approach by the local planning authority as a result of pre-application dialogue and engagement. Building bespoke homes in remote locations can be challenging for many reasons, as was the case with this project. Access to the site was difficult, and the project did take longer to complete than initially proposed by the main contractor, despite being a timber frame structure.

RK: How was the build affected by COVID-19?
JS: We experienced some delays and disruption due to the pandemic; however, the site was not ‘shut down’ for an extended period. One of the challenges for the client was that they lived a few hours from the site, and as a result, their site visits were reduced to the minimum due to restrictions. I felt for them as building a house is an exciting and challenging experience!

Concluding his Q&A, James says: “The new home has been thoughtfully knitted into this complex site to work with the varying levels and existing beautiful trees. The design truly brings the outside in, not only through ‘inside-outside spaces’ and visual links through the house to the sea beyond but through the indoor garden within the central atrium where nature is the focus. Simple measures, such as bringing the Kebony cladding in and through the atrium, reinforce this concept.”

Kebony

RK: Tell us about Kebony’s technology.
NL: Kebony utilises patented wood modification technology to enhance the qualities of sustainable softwood, giving it the characteristics of premium hardwood without environmental damage.

RK: How does using Kebony wood benefit the environment?
NL: Kebony’s vision is to reduce CO2 emissions and tropical rainforest deforestation by utilising patented technology to produce superior and sustainable wood. Kebony is recognised as one of the leading sustainable timber pioneers globally. Using a proven timber modification technology, Kebony produces an enhanced wood that is both environmentally friendly and cost effective.

RK: What other architectural projects has Kebony recently been used in?
NL: Kebony has been used for various architectural projects, from new-build homes to large-scale commercial projects. The company has an impressive portfolio of international, high-profile projects, including headline-grabbing architectural ventures and a host of award-winning commercial, residential and public sector builds.

RK: How does Kebony age over time?
NL: Kebony is unique in its appearance, starting as a rich brown colour which then ages over time to a striking silver-grey. Following exposure to elements, Kebony wood maintains its hardwood-like properties, is resistant to weathering and provides a reliable and resilient material. The changing colouring is subtle and in keeping with the natural aesthetic.

RK: Why is Kebony so popular?
NL: Kebony provides its customers with sustainably-sourced, quality wood that is available at a low cost and requires very little maintenance other than usual cleaning. As the construction industry is becoming increasingly aware of its environmental impact, many architects are looking for sustainable alternatives to protect the world we live in.

RK: Where else is Kebony useful in a house-building project?
NL: Kebony wood can be used for both practical and decorative functions as it is a multipurpose material that is durable and aesthetically pleasing in nature.

Nina concludes: “It’s fantastic to see more and more homes embrace the use of sustainably-sourced wood like Kebony, which decreases the logging of precious tropical hardwoods and provides a long-lasting and sustainably-sourced wood alternative to concrete, plastic and steel. The architects, Loyn + Co, have created an exceptional home in Wales, and one that should set an example for how remarkable dwellings can be built and benefitted by innovative, environmentally-friendly materials.”

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