With the pedigree of Dualchas behind it, HebHomes has taken the kit house to a whole new level
In the surface of it, the decision to replace a post-war prefab with a kit house sounds like one short-term solution after another. But in the case of the new property by HebHomes that recently emerged in Ardnamurchan, nothing could be wider of the mark.
Indeed, on first sight of it in its leafy glade, the new building looks nothing like a typical kit house. With its Siberian larch cladding, slate roof and large picture window looking out towards Skye, it appears utterly bespoke. And this is precisely what its owners wanted.
“The clients originally asked us about designing a bespoke house,” says Alasdair Stephen, co-founder of Dualchas Architects and director of its offshoot, HebHomes. “But then they decided they’d prefer more certainty on costs and a faster build. This led them down the HebHomes route.”
The company offers a full turnkey service, organising planning permission and building warrants as well as arranging for a contractor to manage the build.
Initially, the owners wanted a façade of white-rendered blockwork, but following discussions with HebHomes, the decision was taken to switch to Siberian larch. “We did this because the clients wanted the house to be built quickly,” says Alasdair. “Timber cladding is not weather-dependent in the way that frost affects concrete or heavy rain stops you applying render. It meant the build could progress at a faster rate. We also think the timber cladding suits the remote setting better.”
The setting is undeniably superb, but it did create a number of challenges for the team. “The main difficulty for a site like this is the location,” admits Alasdair. “It’s very remote. The lorry that carried the materials had to take the ferry from Fort William and then it had a long drive along a single-track road. This made the build logistically difficult, and subsequently a bit more expensive – we had to put in a new access road as the existing one had such dangerously poor visibility.”
Once access was established, the next step was to work out the best position for the house in terms of its orientation. Next came the planning and building warrant stage. “The design of the house already existed, but we made one key change by placing a large window on the front gable to face the views to Skye,” says Alasdair. “It’s a north-facing house, so it’s quite protected, with the big window looking up to the north-west.”
The clients’ request for a quick turnaround was met, with the entire build taking less than five months. The house sits in roughly the same position as the old prefab, but the new home – constructed via a SIP (Structurally Insulated Panel) system – is built on new foundations. “As well as being quick to put up, the huge benefit of a SIP-built house is that it provides a continuous envelope of insulation,” says Alasdair. “It’s a lot more airtight than a timber-frame house.”
The high level of airtightness meant the house could have a mechanical ventilation and air-source heat pump and heat exchanger. The high-spec windows (Nordan NTech 1.2, a HebHomes standard) also contribute to energy efficiency. “The large sliding doors are the most expensive element of the build,” says Alasdair, “but they are a lovely feature, leading straight out to the deck and into the landscape.”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 134-140, issue 107.