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Project Title: Crowbrook

Location: Ware, Hertfordshire

Wood Species and Products Used: Siberian larch, African sapele, sapele veneered Medite MDF insulated panels, Western red cedar, American black walnut, European oak burr veneer.

Building client/owner: Private

Architect: Knox Bhavan Architects

Structural Engineer:  Fluid

Main Contractor/Builder: Philliam Construction & Developments Ltd

Joinery Company: Soundcraft Joinery

Wood Supplier: Soundcraft Joinery, Kent

Other services: Paul Bastick Associates

Project Description:

Crowbrook is a new timber-framed single story house for a client with rheumatoid arthritis.

The original poorly constructed, badly planned bungalow was however well sited within a beautiful well-established garden. Although the new house sits on the same footprint preserving the garden, views and aspect, it miraculously feels twice the size. With no circulation space, storey height sliding doors and flush thresholds make every part of the house and garden fully accessible and enjoyed. Projecting bay window seats bring the garden into the house.

Whilst fully accessible the house has no feel of special measures; it is calm and simple, a space through which the client moves with ease and no visible fuss.

The ceiling is a standard 2.4m throughout apart from the heart of the building where the ceiling rises to 4m creating a dynamic, larger, light filled volume. There is a planted roof, solar thermal and PV panels.

Although clad in the local vernacular black boarding Crowbrook is unashamedly modern.

Timber Frame
A timber frame was chosen for speed and cost as a lightweight breathable wall system, echoing the vernacular construction of the area. External walls are constructed from readymade 45×220mm I joist cassette panels delivered to site for assembly onto brickwork stub walls with an easi-joists roof. The walls and roof are fully filled with cellulose fibre insulation within breathable timber wall panels.

All windows, shutters and cladding have a solvent based black stain.

All glazing is fixed with insulated ventilation shutters. The windows are Sapele African hardwood. The shutters are Sapele veneered medite insulated panels.

Shutters and windows were all delivered with 2 coats of stain, a further coat applied on site.

The cladding is kiln dried Siberian Larch, to architects profile, pre-stained with two coats, two coats of stain were applied once fixed.

A full cutting schedule was provided to control the number of cut boards and location. Detailed setting out was given for the battens and cladding where it changes from vertical to horizontal boards.

The black stained cladding, whilst forgiving and uniform in appearance is susceptible to movement depending upon the elevations orientation. Although predicted this is monitored and shading provided through trees or other planting.

At the heart of the house is a special joinery piece running the full length of the sitting room. Incorporating shelves, drawers, sliding doors, it invisibly contains an under-floor heating manifold and all services from the front wing of the house to the bedroom wing at the rear.

This joinery piece includes American Black Walnut and carefully selected European Oak Burr Veneer. The richness of this piece is a foil to the simplicity of the fair-faced brickwork, white plaster and concrete in this space.

Sliding timber doors are integral to the working and concept of this house. Hefele and the main contractor Philiam were particularly helpful on site in heroically achieving invisible tracks enabling ceilings to run through.