Hudson Architects’ Cedar House, a new-build private residence in Norfolk, pilots a new prototype for cost-effective new-build modern housing. It deploys innovative off-site construction. The brief was for a simple house comprising two bedrooms and a third room, which could function as both a guest room and office. A separate area of the house was required for a spacious studio with separate loading access.
Situated in the countryside of North Elmham, on the river Wensum, it was important that the building was sensitive to its surroundings. Hudson Architects designed a modest rural building simple in form and evocative of a functional farm building. Working with structural engineers Alan Conisbee Associates and off site construction specialists Framework CDM the practice adopted Framework’s system of prefabricated timber panel floors, walls and roofing, making the entire building extremely quick to assemble on site and offering high levels of insulation.
What is exceptional about the house is the way in which Hudson Architects have achieved complex spacious interiors from a prefabricated system. Keen to stretch the inherent properties of the panel system, Hudson Architects discovered that a lightweight roof structure would eliminate roof beams permitting soaring ceilings and seamless open plan spaces, and that large openings, even across corners, were achievable without the need for additional structural reinforcement. This meant that the practice could design a light and spacious building arrangement that engaged with its surroundings whilst also offering a ready-made building package which kept the costs down and presented limited risk to the client. The final scheme incorporates a cantilevered corner window which frames views onto the river from the living room and a line of glazed doors which fold in completely, extending the living room on to a raised deck on the West side.
Orientated on a North-South axis the building makes the most of the morning and afternoon sun. The kitchen faces East and the living room deck and entrance space is orientated to the West. Externally the building has been entirely cloaked in 15,000 untreated cedar shingles, a material which belies the prefabricated system beneath. Fixed to battens over a breathable waste-woodchip building board cedar was chosen as a more cost effective alternative to weatherboarding. Coupled with the clean lines of the aluminium window surrounds and integrated into a design, which cleverly conceals obtrusive rainwater systems, the cedar reads as a dramatic sleek protective cloak, which sits harmoniously with its countryside surroundings.
Built on a 100 year flood plain and designed to sit one metre above the ground, the lower half of the structure has been engineered to be sacrificial in case of flooding. Internally, electrical circuits and sockets are raised to a dado height level. The building was erected in just one week and is extremely cost effective. The final value £245,000 came within the original budget of £275,000 and was delivered on time. The challenge now is to work with the house building sector to harness this innovation and apply the lessons learned to the mass house-building sector.