The Old Water Tower: A crisply designed Passivhaus

1 December 2016

Named after a derelict water tower which was demolished to make way for the construction, The Old Water Tower was built as a commercial proposition by Gresford Architects to show that a Passivhaus can be a crisply designed modern piece of architecture demonstrating comfortable sustainable living.Ecology was chosen given their experience of providing mortgages for Passivhaus developments.

With its large windows and generous living spaces, the four bedroom family house is a comfortable, contemporary interpretation of the locally found historic timber framed buildings it draws inspiration from. Unusually for a Passivhaus it is orientated to the west to take advantage of beautiful views over open countryside, and its warm and characterful interior shows how bright and joyful life in a Passivhaus can be.

The layout of the building is fairly typical, with living spaces on the ground floor, and bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. The staircase forms the centre of the plan, separating the living room from the kitchen and dining area, and framing a utility room and study nook.

The windows are carefully arranged on the west elevation to take advantage of the views, whereas the east and north elevations have small windows to reduce heat loss and to avoid overlooking adjacent houses. The garden to the west is raised above the internal floor level to allow full views of the landscape while eating and sitting outside.

The southern elevation has large windows at ground floor level, opening onto a large paved terrace area. At first floor level, randomly placed small windows offset the formality of the façade and are set at a high level to avoid overlooking neighbours. The sunlight through the windows creates playful patterns in the two children’s bedrooms.

The front door is set deep into the middle of the east elevation to provide shelter while searching for keys or taking off muddy boots. The tight entrance porch area is deliberately enclosed to accentuate the sense of release when stepping into the 8m high entrance hall which acts as the focus of the house.

The four bedrooms have distinct characters and all but the guest room (which has an attic with storage and plant above it) take advantage of the roof form by opening up to the internal apex of the roof to create a feeling of space in a relatively tight floor plan.

Construction began in March 2015 and the project was completed in October 2015.