Regreening an unloved site

Hayhurst & Co have created a verdant, light-filled CLT home that uses space to maximal effect.

Commissioned by the clients to design a fun and exciting home for their young family, London-based architects Hayhurst & Co drew on the greenery and natural history of the site to create a re-imagined, domestic-scale greenhouse.

Slotting neatly into its backland plot in the Clyde Circus Conservation Area in Tottenham – historically home to small market gardens, greenhouses and orchards – the Green House has a simple but carefully devised design. It prioritizes flexible family life, connection to nature, and sustainability – all within a limited budget and constrained site.

“The clients sought a big sense of light and space in the living space, and for everything to be connected. They are passionate gardeners and we wanted to link this to the site’s history of cultivation and greenery, by creating a fluid inside-outside feeling, and bringing the planting close to the house.”

Claire Taggart, architect, Hayhurst & Co

Green House by Hayhurst & Co Architects

View from the atrium out to garden and sky. (All photos © Kilian O’Sullivan/ Tom Van Schelven)

Efficiency of design

Wanting to make best use of resources, the clients initially investigated the possibility of refurbishing the existing house that stood on the plot. However, it soon became clear that its poor condition made this unviable. From the very start of planning the newbuild, it was important to both the clients and architects that it must be done as sustainably as possible, in both construction and use.

Green-House from Hayhurst and Co

Minimal furnishings: recycled cork-rubber flooring upstairs, space dividing curtains, painted steelwork and exposed CLT.

CLT from the start

Project architect Claire Taggart explains that this led to an early choice to use cross laminated timber for the frame and interior. This tied in with the project’s design philosophy of structural expression and minimal material palette.

Working with CLT specialists and TDUK members EURBAN, the design team developed the frame’s form. “We went for a simple block form to maximise structural and material efficiency, as well as to give the best form factor possible,” Taggart says, “this also made it quite easy to construct, with limited wastage.”

The house is heated via an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP), includes PVs on the roof and uses passive cooling design to achieve 29 kWh/m2/year and 410 kgCO2/m2 over the building’s lifecycle.

Interconnection and togetherness

With regular visits from international family, it was important to the clients that they have enough bedrooms to accommodate guests, but they also longed for a generous overall feeling of height and spaciousness.

This was cleverly achieved by a riad-style floor plan, at the centre of which a top-lit, double height atrium connects all living spaces and brings daylight into the heart of the home.

“Because of neighbouring properties either side,” Taggart explains, “we knew we wouldn’t be able to put windows into the sides of the house, so we opened up the middle to give a light, bright living space.”

Long curtains wrap around the central communal area, allowing it to be separated off and providing acoustic absorption to the downstairs spaces. With five bedrooms arranged off the first-floor mezzanine, the efficient layout allows dramatic height and light as well as plentiful sleeping space. The atrium assists in cooling the house on hot days through natural stack ventilation with solar glass windows fitted with temperature and rain sensors.

Living spaces built around ‘riad’ atrium with greenery continuing from outdoor in. Drawing by Hayhurst & Co

Blurring the inside-outside boundaries

Slightly sunken into the ground, and with double aspect views out through planters to both the front and rear gardens, the atrium has a courtyard-like feeling. “When you’re there, you feel hunkered down in the landscape,” notes Taggart.

A key aim of the design was to create a fluidity between inside and out: long views out to sky or garden, internally expressed timber, and a green façade all help to tie the house to its green and wooded setting. “The idea was to regreen the whole site – including the façade.” Describing the striking south-facing façade, Taggart explains: “It has a slight overhang that prevents direct sun entering the bedrooms. Polycarbonate sliding screens work like outdoor curtains, and the bamboo, which it is planted with, provides privacy and dappled shading.”

A beautiful carbon-sequestering structure

The frame for Green House was built with 52.9m3 of CLT. Suppliers Stora Enso calculated that this volume of timber:

  • Stores 39 tonnes of carbon dioxide during the building’s lifetime
  • Takes just 18 seconds to be regrown in sustainably managed Austrian forests

Throughout the house, the end grain and growth rings of the CLT have been displayed to reveal how the material has grown. The internal doors are all made from CLT notched into the frame, avoiding door frames and architraves.

Glulam beams supporting the first-floor slab create an evenly spaced rhythm to the downstairs ceilings. In contrast, by nesting the beams that support the roof deck just inside the bedroom walls, an unbroken stretch of CLT wall reaches seamlessly up to the sky.

The precise tolerances that the CLT is made to meant that the steel mezzanine and façade frames could be manufactured in tandem with the superstructure.

With its low-carbon footprint and eight-month construction time, the Green House is an exemplar prototype for a contemporary family home that could be replicated on other restricted sites, or duplicated on a larger scale, such as terraces, without relying on side windows.

“The house is an incredible space to bring up a young family; we all feel very connected to each other and to the outside through the amount of natural light. The giant spacedividing curtains means the space continually evolves throughout the day, from a huge playroom in the day to a cosy, intimate spot to watch a film in the evening.”

Green House clients

This article is from issue 03 of Designing Timber. Read more articles from the magazine here.