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Reflections and actions after the Passivhaus Interview

My interview of the Passivhaus certified home owner forced me to reflect on my "VITA" design. I realised that whilst the eco aspect of the home had become something the buyer had learned to appreciate, it was the style of the house, and the location which were the deciding factors. I realised that I had sacrificed my design instincts in favour of trying to meet the low cost and passivhaus certification criteria.

My objective was to offer those who would eventually live in the homes a relatively spacious modern but cosy home, with plenty of natural light, access to open space and nature, whilst meeting the targets of Passivhaus certification and the brief in general. I had to try harder. "Nil Difficile Volenti"

My first worry was that all the natural light provided by the large window and the glass door entrance on the ground floor of the dwellings would have benefitted only one bedroom and a long corridor. I looked at various options. I decided a radical move was necessary so I chose to move the entrance door to the back of the building on the first floor. This in turn would generate a number of changes which would be beneficial to the general feel of the home.

Ground Floor Layout - 3 Bedroom Dwelling - First Version

First Floor Layout - 3 Bedroom Dwelling - First Version

The entrance at the back of the building means that when the owners (or guests) open the door they go through a relatively short corridor straight into the living room area and the large floor to ceiling windows which 'frame' the garden balcony and 'outside living area', as well as the view over Falmouth. I was sure this was right the right move when I remembered my ARC130 essay featured The Freycinet Lodge Coastal Pavilions overlooking the Great Oyster Bay and Hazard mountains in Tasmania Australia. Whilst the location may not be as 'glamorous', I could use the same technique to obtain a similar effect. The 'unimposing' doorway would frame a threshold (Unwin, n.d.:42) like it does for the Pavillions. Once you are over the threshold you leave the outside world (and sense of co-habitation) behind and you are immediately welcomed by a different world, which is private but also with a view on the outside world.

The Freycinet Lodge Coastal Pavilions - Entrance - © Dianna Snape

The Freycinet Lodge Coastal Pavilions - Doorway - © Dianna Snape

In order to maintain the full view I had to rethink the barriers. They needed to be physical barriers for protection but not complete visual barriers. Glass panes would ensure that the view was maintained and safety not compromised.

With the 'framed' effect now of great importance I needed to think of how to protect those using the balcony from the elements, in particular sun and rain. Fixed structures were out of the question as they would inevitably impact the 'frame' as well as the clean minimalist visual effect I was looking for on the exterior. Patio awnings which are very common in the Swiss countryside seemed like the ideal solution.

A cassette awning in a similar colour to the cladding would ensure the awning was almost invisible when not in use, manually operated version would keep costs lower.

The decision of moving the entrance resulted in a reduction in the size of the bathroom, so I decided to replace the separate bath and shower with a combo bath shower. I also decided to add a window to the bathroom for natural light. Paradoxically I now had more space in the bathroom which I could use for the boiler and the ground source heat pump "shoebox".

First Floor Layout - 3 Bedroom Dwelling - Revised Version

By moving the kitchen area to the opposite side of the room I was in a position to move the stairs so their landing space was changed which allowed me to switch the disposition of the rooms on the ground floor. The two smaller rooms would benefit from two large floor to ceiling windows at the front of the room, whilst the larger master bedroom would benefit glass sliding doors on the side of the building which aside from providing natural light would also provide a potential fire escape on the ground floor.

First Floor Layout - 3 Bedroom Dwelling - Revised Version

UNWIN, S. and EBOOKS ON EBSCOHOST, n.d. Analysing architecture (Basic Elements of Architecture). Routledge, p.39.

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