Replacement farmhouse overlooking the Exe Valley, Devon
№ 8

Exe Valley Farm — Replacement Farmhouse Devon

Set on the edge of a wooded valley amidst rolling hills overlooking the Exe Valley, this new build farmhouse replaced an older farmhouse that had been in need of modernisation. The original farmhouse, itself a 1980’s extension of an earlier farmhouse, offered limited accommodation, did not sit well within its surroundings and was not energy efficient. The opportunity was therefore taken to start again rather than try to improve the existing house – with our clients bravely taking on the job of knocking down the old house themselves!

Our brief was to create a one-off home that would be contemporary, light in feel and incorporate sustainable design, integrating seamlessly within the farm complex and into the wider landscape, yet using a similar footprint to the original house. Replacing the farmhouse gave us the opportunity to subtly shift the orientation of the house and to arrange the spaces so as to lead to carefully framed views throughout the home, surprising and delighting in all directions.

The material palette and contemporary detailing complement and contrast with the more traditional farmhouse form that commands the central part of the property. The natural stone walls, topped by a slate roof, emphasise the farmhouse aesthetic, whilst the zinc clad elements provide a contemporary distinction to the extensions to the house. To minimise their visual impact the service areas and garage are disguised under a green roof planted with wildflowers, that also serves to bed the rear of the house into its surroundings.

In addition to designing to achieve energy efficient construction through consideration of building technology, insulation levels, and continuity of air tightness, the complex utilises solar photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, biomass and geothermal energy sources. These are directed into a central plant room, that then balances and provides connections to different areas of the accommodation.

Balancing the need for the new accommodation with the constraints of planning policy required careful consideration, where extended dialogue with the Local Planning Authority concluded successfully. To support the case put forward, modeling of the proposals in the context of relevant planning policies was undertaken.

A “Design and Access Statement” is a short report that is prepared to accompany a planning application.

Tabs 1—6 explain how these proposals offered a suitable response to the site and its setting, and careful consideration of compliance with local and national planning policies.

1. Existing House

  • A. Ground has large mass on the site (more mass behind, not visible from diagram).
  • B. Small area of overlap between ground floor and lower ground floor resulting in poor thermal efficiency.
  • C. House form is not typical of Devon vernacular building.
  • A. More space is made on the ground floor to allow for parking to be concealed. Development is made more attractive: “seek to create distinctive, attractive, safe environments.”
  • B. Better overlap between ground and first floors provided. “incorporate energy [...] conservation elements”
  • C. Larger footprint of ground floor moves ground floor wall outwards and forms a tall two storey, ‘built’ face that doesn’t reflect the stepping/sloping of the site. “enhance the landscape character“
  • A. New green roof over. “reinforce any nature conservation interest of the site”, “create distinctive [...] environments”, “enhance the distinctive landscape”, “ensure new buildings are in keeping with their environment”, “where possible increased biodiversity”, they are located without harm to the [...] appearance [...] of any affected landscape”, “incorporate energy [...] conservation elements”.
  • B. Two storey, ‘built’ face is still present, although could be annotated differently with materials.

A. New contemporary take on Devon vernacular form added so that the whole building appears as a smaller house cited in landscape.

The house is a replacement dwelling, rather than a new dwelling and this form is honest about the presence of the building as the principal building in the farm complex. “without harm to the historic character of any affected landscape, settlement, building” “locally distinctive design, reflecting the local vernacular”, “design and location to protect the character of the countryside”, “the creation of new dwellings outside settlements [...] must be a designed to reflect local vernacular traditions”

A. Lower ground floor does not line up with ground floor and continues towards pool and to wrap around and form master bedroom walls and outdoor courtyard, further enhancing the idea of a small house. “enhance the landscape character” “any replacement dwelling would be strictly controlled in respect of the size, design and location in order to protect the character of the countryside”.

  • A. Landscaping is used to reinstate natural topography of the hill. Use of natural stone reinforces vernacular and ‘of the earth’ landscaping character. “enhance the landscape character”.
  • B. Traditional form farmhouse excavated into a hillside is a common Devon typology. “locally distinctive design, reflecting the local vernacular”, “design and location to protect the character of the countryside”, “the creation of new dwellings outside settlements [...] must be a designed to reflect local vernacular traditions”.
  • C. Infill sections between splits in landscape and extrusions through traditional form are clearly annotated using contemporary materials. “great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs”.