British architectural studio Millar Howard Workshop has come up with a creative way to build a beautiful family home on a protected piece of land, which was previously denied building permits twice before. Their solution was to build an elevated 200-sq m (2,152-sq ft) Passivhaus treehouse. Dubbed Dursley Treehouse, the result is a stunning family home built above a series of screwpiles specifically designed for minimal impact on the ground.
"The brief for the house was to gain planning permission for this unusual site which had twice before been refused planning for conventional houses," says Millar Howard Workshop. "The client wanted a dwelling that was very sensitive to both the immediate surroundings of the site and the wider, local community. The client was also adamant that the impact of the house on its site should be very low and be as environmentally sound as possible."
In order to not disturb the site's 27 protected trees and their roots, an elevated building was conceived, incorporating the trees in the home's design and outlook. The architects had to consider the trees and their dimensions to build the home around the trunks and branches, while also calculating for future growth and movement.
Furthermore, the decision to support the structure using screwpiles meant the ground would remain unmarred, which was a condition of the planning approval. During construction, builders used specialist forklifts and cranes with caterpillar tracks in order to not impact or disturb the roots.
"What was unique about this site was looking at the spaces between the trees to find the best location for the building so as not to disturb the trees or disrupt any future growth," Ros James from Millar Howard Workshop tells New Atlas. "A series of stacked, cantilevered boxes was designed which created several separate spaces, linked by the continual heights of the trees which flow as you progress up through the house and maximize the views of the branches, leaves and inevitable wildlife."
With the main part of the home sitting some 12 m (39 ft) above the ground, the stunning treehouse-inspired home stretches over three levels and features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, large open plan living, beautiful slate flooring and a lightweight balcony that encircles the entire home.
In order to achieve Passivhaus certification, the Dursley Treehouse was built with an airtight double stud timber frame and 300 mm (13-in) insulation. The dwelling is supported by a steel frame with ceramic structural thermal breaks in order to avoid any cold bridging issues. The windows and doors have been strategically positioned to reduce heat loss and gains.
The home is clad with untreated Larch and its base is clad with polished stainless steel to reflect the trees and surrounding landscape. In addition, many of the home's features were built from reclaimed materials, including the balconies. The home is fitted with rooftop solar panels and its overall annual energy cost is anticipated at approx £360 (US$481).
Dursley Treehouse took 20 months to complete, costing £268,000 (US$358,495) all up. It is the recent winner of The Telegraph & Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine Best Passivhaus Award 2017. Located in Gloucestershire, South West England, Dursley Treehouse is soon to be opened as a Bed and Breakfast, offering a unique treehouse escape.
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