RIBA East Regional Project of the Year 2022
After winning the regional East RIBA award, this project was longlisted for the coveted title of RIBA House of the Year. Kevin McCloud, from Grand Designs, visited the property in person to meet our client, Joan Morters.
Q&A with our client, Joan Morters
We talked to self-builder and committed environmentalist Joan Morters about her original vision for Mere House. Designed by Mole Architects, the property won the RIBA East Regional Award for Small Project of the Year 2022.
1. Why led you to consider Passivhaus as a construction method?
I had always planned to self build. As a retired headteacher, I knew I would remain active. Over the past few years I’ve also become more conscious of the environment and living in a more eco-friendly way. I used to watch Grand Designs and saw how new technology and design innovation could reduce the need fossil fuels, while allowing for modern design and creativity. This interested me greatly.
2. How did you learn about Beattie Passive?
I attended an event at the National Self Build Centre back in 2016 and met Ron Beattie at his stand. We talked through the Beattie Passive system and I was struck by how efficient it was. Their system made perfect sense when building an energy efficient home. I was also swayed by the fact that they are a British manufacturer. I’m passionate about supporting the UK market.
3. How were the early stages of design and working with Beattie Passive?
This went really well. Beattie Passive actually introduced me to an architect they had worked with before – Mole Architects. They are not only well versed in the Beattie Passive system, but also passionate about Passivhaus living. The architect had a great understanding of how I wanted to futureproof the house. We spent a lot of time discussing ideas to ensure the layout would work for me in the coming years. The process of transforming the design into the Beattie Passive system went very smoothly. Both teams had worked closely together in the past.
4. With regard to futureproofing, what measures did you consider during the design process?
This was always designed to be my forever home. I was keen to ensure that I could cope living here as I get older. So the key design criteria for me was accessibility and an easy layout. I have a downstairs bedroom which acts as guest accommodation for now, but could also be for a carer in later years. The installation of a lift will allow me to continue living on the top floor to enjoy the fantastic views! All doors are wide enough for a wheelchair so I’ve covered all bases, just in case. I wanted to ensure this was both a beautiful and practical home to live in during my retirement.
5. Have there been any downsides to the project at all?
Managing other contractors has been a challenge, but no more than I expected with a self build project. Also, using other contractors who are not familiar with the Beattie Passive system meant I had to guide them through the installation of various fixtures and fitting. For example, telling them they couldn’t simply drill a hole in the external wall for wiring or the outside tap as this would adversely affect the integrity of the structure and therefore its performance. However, they soon learned how to work with the building. The airtightness test of just 0.358 m3/hm2@50Pa shows it’s performing as it should.
6. How has the process been on site?
All in all, it has gone relatively smoothly. Planning took longer than expected. I was grateful to my neighbour who is a builder/developer who was able to recommend various trades I needed prior to Beattie Passive arriving on site. When the structure arrived it all went up so quickly. It was amazing to see my house take shape. The Beattie Passive team worked really well together. They were always helpful and took time to explain the process as it happened.
7. In your opinion, what is the best aspect of living in a Passivhaus standard property?
The reduction in utility bills is fantastic, not only with it being a Passivhaus, and therefore super-insulated, but I also have 6 PV panels on the roof generating my own electricity. Even though I live in a quiet area, the noise quality afforded by the high-spec triple glazing and super insulated structure will be another bonus, along with it being less dusty, which is not just better for my health, but also less work to clean!
8. As a Grand Designs RIBA nominee, Mere House has received a lot of recognition. How does it feel?
I’ve been a fan of Grand Designs for years. After winning the RIBA East Regional Small Project of the Year Award, the project was longlisted for House of the Year. Kevin McCloud visited in person and he really liked the inverted layout and the other unique features of the house, such as the butterfly roof and the larch cladding. Overall, it was a fantastic experience being involved in the show.