Low Maintenance Contemporary Self-Build

Alison and James feel very content to now live in a home tailored to their needs in retirement
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It
25th August 2017

Retired couple Alison and James’s previous abode was an old listed building and consequently a massive burden to upkeep. They were also keen for a new lifestyle and desperate to downsize. With the help of lapd architects they were able to realise a new home on the land they already owned.

A daunting task

The couple are both gardening enthusiasts with a passion for preserving the environment. Their brief was therefore simple – a low maintenance home which would allow them to enjoy their later stages of retirement. It needed to accommodate a garden and allow them to enjoy the space with their friends.

Approaching the project, Alison and James felt great apprehension and were concerned about the strain of building a new home. Bearing this in mind, lapd architects took a very holistic approach.

Fact file
  • LocationOxfordshire
  • ProjectSelf-build
  • StyleContemporary
  • House size195m²
  • Project cost£349,200
  • Project cost per m²£1,790
  • Construction time12 months

Each stage was tackled step by step, keeping the couple focused on relevant issues. This resulted in good decisions being made and their dream home becoming reality. lapd listened to their needs and aspirations and were able to enrich the journey for them.

The design stage involved developing an outline brief and providing ideas that evolved until they reached a solution the couple were delighted with.  “Light is very important to us and the architect’s design has captured this aspect very well”, says Alison.

lapd were also vital to ensuring that the build remained affordable, through their ability to interrogate construction methods and costs. lapd assisted the couple in finding a contractor who could work with the slightly tricky planning conditions, holding a vetting process to ensure the best possible choice was made.

lapd were commissioned to act as Alison and James’ representatives on site, overseeing construction. When considering the Alison and James’s anxieties about the build, it was decided that it would be in the couple’s interest to not attend the formal meetings onsite. The architects experience meant they were aware of when to be concerned with an issue.

Using this slightly unusual approach meant lapd was able to manage the couple’s worries, only reporting key facts and assisting them in any important decisions. This meant that minor day-to-day worries were avoided by the couple and dealt with by lapd and the main contractor.

Sustainability and adaptions

Alison and James’s desire for a highly environmentally friendly home needed to be balanced with their limited budget. To achieve this lapd steered the couple to a slightly unusual masonry solution, which would be affordable, but also highly thermally efficient.

The cavity walls of the house are slightly thicker than most, providing good levels of airtightness. The house is passively heated with air-source heat pumps, which combined with the high spec insulation, means that the dwelling is relatively inexpensive to run, especially in contrast to their previous home.

Given James’ increasing fragility, the house has also been designed with accessibility in mind. Wide doors, level thresholds, easy access bathrooms and an easy-rise wide staircase all help ensure this.

Furthermore, the home’s more open structure has leant Alison and James’s various collected artworks and historical artefacts a new lease of life- giving them a sense of pride in their new abode

Reaping the rewards

“Looking at the whole project, James and I are very pleased with the end result,” says Alison. “lapd has created a wonderful new home for us. It is easy to maintain, light and spacious and is immediately warm and welcoming to guests. It gives us both the independent and shared spaces we now need.”

The architect’s unique and flexible approach shows that self-build is versatile enough to suit anyone and has resulted in a home which enriches the couple’s lives in a way that only the best homes can.

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