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Initially, the building was fragmented in its’ use, containing a series of cramped, cellular spaces. The previous owners, a family of four with one parent working from home, used the building inefficiently, both spatially and programmatically.
We wanted to create a home that could accommodate a family of four and a working studio. At the same time, we wanted to retain as much original feature as possible, as that charmed us into purchasing the property in the first place.
We wanted to preserve the original fabric of the Victorian Mews house while introducing contemporary sustainable agenda. Our aim was to re-think the traditional “envelope” and make it more efficient by bringing it closer to the modern standards.
Originally coach-and-horses’ stable and coachman’s living quarters, this late 19th century mews house in a North London Conservation Area, emerges, after a 2-phase retrofit, as an award-winning architects studio and upper maisonette.
In order to improve the property, the following two main objectives have been set:
First, to raise the quality of accommodation by referring to the original spatial arrangement –workspace on the ground floor, sleeping and bathing quarters above and well-wrapped living/eating/cooking on top.
Second, to significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint by “Wrapping up Warm”, ventilating, and generally following the Code for Sustainable Homes, Level 4, along with reclaiming many of the existing items from the site; timber paneled doors and boarding, heating elements, etc.
This achieved through the following measures:
Returning the spatial logic
The two existing independent entrances at ground floor have been used to separate work from living areas. In keeping with the original configuration, the new layout dedicates the entire ground floor to workspace, leaving upper floors free for residential use only.
After removing most of the domestic additions of recent years, a single open space was created on the ground floor with its’ own access from the mews. Although the main building structure is typical of a property of this age – load-bearing solid-brick walls at its perimeters – less typically, a single timber beam spans 10-metres across and is propped up only by one cast-iron column. The locations of that column and the staircase to the flat above provided an opportunity to group all necessary circulation and services around these two, leaving a clear horse shoe-shaped space within.
Another large open space was created in the old hayloft that combines living, eating and cooking, and benefits from abundance of daylight and views out. The middle floor is logically organized with two bathrooms, and three-four bedrooms.
“Wrap up Warm!” & Ventilate
As part of terrace in a Conservation Area, with all elevations visible to the public, the insulation process could only happen from within. Internally insulating such a building required special considerations paid to the breathability of the original fabric.
On the ground floor that was achieved by specifying a fully breathable, but rather bulky wood fibre insulation that avoids inter-fabric condensation and allows the exposure of the original internal finishes: glazed tiles and cobbled floors. On the upper floors, in contrast, SPA specified a taped and sealed system of aluminium foil faced PIR board that addresses space saving concerns – an approach that requires the provision of ventilated cavities to walls and roof via airbricks and breathable roofing membrane.
Ambient ventilation is provided through the combination of passive, through-wall ventilation, mechanically assisted ventilation (single-room MVHR units) and the natural purge ventilation. The purge ventilation has been easy to achieve due to (the fortunate) double-aspect of the property.
Further details of measures installed-
To reduce reliance on fossil fuels, the following measures were undertaken:
– Installation of solar thermal evacuated tubes to aid in the supply of domestic hot water
– Specifying only A-rated appliances and low energy lighting
– Installation of MVHR to bathrooms and adjacent bedrooms.
– All existing windows in the maisonette were upgraded, draft-proved and glazing replaced with slim D/G units (Histoglass)
– Where the glazing was retained, new secondary glazing units were added internally
– All new windows and skylights are triple-glazed
The property is well ventilated and although there is no separate utility room and so all the washing and drying is done either in the bedrooms or bathrooms, the property is completely damp free, a very welcomed benefit for the tenants who previously struggled with this issue in a terraced home.
Having the open plan kitchen an d living room on the top floor, the area benefits from showers of light throughout the day.
Even though the hob fan is not traditionally placed above it, there is no condensation and, more so, no smell of food travels into the property.
On top floor the radiators are kept on low, even during winter, as the triple glazing windows do not permit heat loss so in the morning it is pleasantly warm.
The property use is maximised by having converted the ground floor into an office, with independent access. The space can be used as a work from home environment but also independently. There is a continuous use of the property either during the working hours, five or six people in the office or out of office hours, by the tenants living in the two top floors of the property.
The property is completely condensation-free.