The Old Water Tower: A crisply designed Passivhaus

The Old Water Tower is a crisply designed Passivhaus new build located in West Berkshire. The site previously housed a derelict water tower, which was demolished to make way for the new build. While its name is a nod to the past, The Old Water Tower’s owners have enthusiastically embraced modern energy-saving technologies and materials.

The build has been developed around Passivhaus principles of excellent airtightness and thermal performance. Both the architect firm, Gresford Architects, and the mortgage provider, Ecology, were chosen on the basis of their expertise in Passivhaus developments and their enthusiasm for the uniqueness of this energy-efficient build.

With its large windows and generous living spaces, the four-bedroom family house is a comfortable, contemporary interpretation of the local area’s historic timber-framed barns. While Passivhaus buildings typically face south, The Old Water Tower is orientated to the west to take advantage of beautiful open views over arable countryside. 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, allowing the family to enjoy far-reaching 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 while letting sunlight into the house, which creates playful patterns in the two children’s bedrooms. 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 give a feeling of space in a relatively tight floor plan.

The deep-set front door provides shelter while searching for keys or taking off muddy boots. And the tight entrance porch area is deliberately enclosed to accentuate the sense of release when stepping into the high entrance hall, which acts as the focus of the house.

After a construction phase of around seven months, The Old Water Tower is now a well-established family home. The build is a living example of how Passivhaus principles can be merged with imaginative design to create an energy-efficient house that sits comfortably within traditional surrounds.

Find out more about Ecology’s self-build mortgages.