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Passive House, Wickhambrook, Suffolk

A successful combination of modern technology with traditional building techniques & materials.

After the sad loss of a 300 year old timber frame building from a fire, R Thomas & Sons were approached to build a new house on the site.

As well as respecting the aesthetics of the original building, the idea of building a house with very little running costs (and even the occasional cheque from The National Grid!) was appealing and so the passive house route was decided upon.

The first challenge, following many meetings, ground and tree surveys, was the careful digging required around the numerous tree roots, including that of a beautiful old oak. This was done mainly by digger, but also by hand. Twenty-two tipper loads of boulder clay and building debris later, the site was ready for the re-build!

Building began with massive foundations (to satisfy building control) with a 225 reinforced concrete slab on top, 600mm of brickwork to bring it up to dpc, and filled with 500mm of insulation.

Then followed the erection of the precision cut timber frame from Gloucestershire. 300mm "I beams" were used for all external walls and floor joist's and 450mm rafters sitting on a 12m gluelam beam. The whole frame was then covered in a glueless "mdf" board.

A very clever air recovery system was fitted along with a woodburner with air fed from the outside (which everyone except the customer knew would never be used but would always look lovely!).

Triple glazed windows and doors were fitted and the whole frame was made airtight with vast amounts of "Tescon" tape before the walls in and out were pumped with shredded paper.

To run this thermally efficient house, solar thermal panels were then fitted to provide hot water and as many PV (solar) panels as could be fitted on the roof for electricity.

Ensuring the building fits in to its Suffolk village surroundings, a traditional pantile roof with a dry verge and ridge system was added before using sawn oak for facias, barge boards and window surrounds.

Most importantly, to complete the softening effect we used FibreChalk mix over all 170m2 of Savolit boards. No angle beads to allow for rounded corners, combined with expert lime plastering skills completed the look.

To finish the build an open framed oak porch and a timber-framed garage (of the builders’ own design) was added. This included a cantilevered roof to create an overhang to act as a log store.

The attention to detail each step of the way ensured a 0.4 air test, as well as a very happy client!

R.Thomas & Sons


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Laying the foundations
Erecting the timber-frame
Savolit woodwool insulation board
Ready for ALC's FibreChalk render
Finished in FibreChalk