ProjectThatch House



StatusPlanning Approved

A radically low-impact thatch and straw home in the countryside

A radically low-impact thatch and straw home in the countryside

Rooted in tradition and place, Thatch House is a radically low carbon home achieving planning permission via Paragraph 84, the ‘country house clause’.

As guardians of the beautiful site in rural Dorset, the client’s aspiration was to create an exemplary home that would be both low-impact and low-energy. Taking cues from the local vernacular, Studio Bark focused on a combination of traditional features and crafts as well as modern building systems that use natural bio-based materials. The juxtaposition between the traditional and contemporary results in a unique home that is contextually sensitive.

Diagram showing bridge feature connecting living space to bedroom space

The Layout

The home is arranged in three distinct parts over a single storey. The two thatched wings are connected with a contrasting timber clad ‘bridge’ with an outside deck that extends from the living and kitchen area to allow these inside spaces to spill into the outdoors. Externally, the entire home shares a similar material palette but on closer inspection, subtle differences in the way the cladding has been detailed gives each element its own character and quality.

The orientation of the home has been carefully considered to optimise views out from the living spaces, to maximise their exposure to the sun. The entrance is enclosed by a small courtyard which conceals views, until you enter the house and experience the full impact of the beautiful natural views outside.

The thatched ‘living wing’ at the East sits tallest, with large views across the land outside, while the Western thatched ‘bedroom wing’ sits lower down providing privacy and calm. The two areas are linked by the bridge, which has extensive glazing creating a bright and airy central hub to the home.

Axo drawing of Bridge House

Natural materials and straw insulation

The materials used are natural, locally sourced and circular, which means they can be reused, recycled or disposed of in a way that does not damage the environment. The home also boasts the use of zero concrete, instead using screwpile foundations and touching the site lightly. These significantly minimise extensive ground works and damage to existing root systems, and are cloaked in local stone, reading as a modern interpretation of the traditional saddle stone.

The prefabricated panels making up the floors and walls are insulated with locally sourced straw. This creates a highly efficient, circular and low embodied carbon solution to keep the building warm. Exposed timber beams feature in the main spaces in varying iterations with the main living space being the most elaborate. These zig-zagged beams function both aesthetically and structurally allowing for the large unsupported overhang which creates a covered outside space.

Visual of open plan interior at Thatch House opening out to garden

A home designed for stewardship of the land

The wider landscape design has been carefully considered to ensure that the proposal is gentle to the picturesque surroundings while also creating features that improve biodiversity. A habitat wall integrates bird nesting opportunities on the north elevation, while chimney-like elements provide additional bat roosts.

An existing cluster of trees helps to anchor the building to the site whilst sheltering the building from a nearby highway. The positioning of the house within the landscape means that the main spaces all enjoy views outdoors emphasizing a strong connection between the home and the nature that surrounds it. An area for growing food has also been incorporated in response to the clients desire to live off of the land.

Hand drawing of Thatch House

Exceeding environmental standards

The home is rooted in low energy design that surpasses all the current RIBA benchmarks by a significant margin. Extensive analysis was undertaken of both embodied and operational carbon to ensure that the home limits its carbon impact over its life cycle. The study concluded that the home would achieve Whole Life Zero Carbon within approximately 47 years.

Fossil fuels have been completely eliminated from the site and the house demonstrates exemplar practice in decarbonised energy provision for a net zero future. Onsite energy generation is achieved through a 10 kWp PV system in an “agrovoltaic” arrangement allowing the space under the panels to be used for growing. Given the exceptional performance of the building fabric and low operational energy demand, over the course of typical year, the PV system will generate surplus power meaning the scheme will be net zero in terms of operational carbon.

Hand drawing of Thatch House

“The building, without being unduly prominent or architecturally dramatic, has an abundance of character and will likely become a positive local feature which will enhance the site and its immediate landscape setting in addition to encouraging and improving the standards for development in the future.

This is not intended to be a building making a grand statement or clamouring for attention. It will sit relatively quietly within a framework of trees and hedgerows and open meadow. In this way the architecture is responding to the almost self-contained nature of the site and will intentionally limit its impact on the wider Landscape. For these reasons it is considered the proposals do meet the exceptional criteria required by paragraph 84 of the NPPF 2023.”

Senior Planning Officer

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