Our decision on the external appearance for our building has been a bit of a design journey. Driven by cost, aesthetics and sustainability concerns.
Initially we were keen to try to incorporate some local stone in our design – not the mock facing that was on the original building but genuine Portland or Ham stone. However the cost of this both in terms of materials and labour meant we quickly realised this would not be feasible. We then looked at other options, stone facings, brick slips, reclaimed bricks. We even in the early stages submitted elevation drawings to planners incorporating some of these ideas.
As we experimented with different ideas our designers quietly watched and waited. We began to realise that it would be difficult to find the right combination of materials within our budget to give our building the sharp design we wanted whilst respecting its location and sustainability issues.
At that point our designers stepped in and suggested we went for wood cladding all over. They considered that this would enable the house to blend in to the landscape; it would be more economic and more environmentally friendly.
We were cautious at first as we were concerned that it would look like a plain grey wooden box, however they showed us that by using a combination of natural and treated wood we could break up the design in a way that will emphasise the architectural features. Also as the untreated wood changes from golden brown to silver it will actually enhance the contrasts with the render and treated larch whilst visually merging with the surrounding trees.
We accepted their wise guidance, though to be honest we retained some doubts about how it would look in the end. And we sometimes found ourselves gazing wistfully at houses that combined ham stone with cedar in a manner that complemented both materials.
There was then a discussion about which wood to use and again our designers firmly steered us towards Siberian Larch.
Siberian Larch is a sustainable, old-growth timber that has been used in construction for centuries. Today it is used extensively throughout Europe, primarily for external applications such as cladding and decking, and for other uses including flooring, bridges and even Olympic velodrome tracks. Its remarkable qualities and unique performance characteristics have led to it being referred to as the ‘Tree of Eternity’.
In terms of environmental impact Siberian Larch is one of the few old growth species that are being harvested from sustainable forests. The natural growth rate of Siberian Larch is five times more than the rate at which it is being harvested, making it a sustainable renewable resource that is in plentiful supply.
Having decided on Larch and agreed a combination of treated and natural would work best the next challenge was how to arrange it on the building. There were numerous combinations that we looked at – differences sometimes so subtle it would be hard to see them at a glance and in the end we deferred to the guidance of our designers who had a much better appreciation of how the final building would look – not just when it is finished but as it matures and the Larch silvers.
There was one additional small twist in the decision tale – I was very taken by narrow width cedar cladding and the way it is sometimes combined with wider strip cladding to break up a design. However this approach is not usually used with larch. Then Tony the designer came up with the idea of getting the natural larch routed which would give the impression of narrower boards whilst maintaining the normal width and ease of fixing. This was an inspired decision fully borne out by the look of the first wall clad with the natural larch.
Slowly we are watching our building become a home as the cladding goes on. It joins it all up, connecting the roof with the walls, the windows to the doors, and the house to the setting in which it sits. A couple of photos below give an impression of what the different finishes look like – but it will be a few more weeks before our brilliant builders https://www.hmconstructionuk.co.uk/case-studies can remove the scaffolding and we can see the the whole building clad in its entirety and appreciate how it will sit in the landscape. Meanwhile here is a taster: