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Histon, Cambridge

 This new three-storey house was completed in 2018. Despite its size, the six-bedroom, 350sqm dwelling sits comfortably on what is a tight plot; its compact design – it is almost square in plan – also ensures a thermally efficient design.

The ground floor is arranged in an open-plan, free-flowing layout which allows for a pleasing transition between the entrance hall, kitchen, dining and living spaces. The latter two face onto the garden across the full width of the back of the house, and can be subdivided by a sliding translucent Japanese screen. The stair rises up through the house in a constant play of concealment and display; the sculptural spherical lampshade which graces the triple-height entrance space was created by the owners. At the top of the house, the second floor loft studio is lit by three balcony roof lights, providing breathtaking views to the west.

At an early stage, a prefabricated timber-framed structure was chosen for the building which shortened the initial stages of construction; in turn, this brought forward the point at which a watertight shell was achieved, thus allowing internal trades to progress their works. This followed close liaison with a contractor appointed early in the process, which allowed the design and the form of construction to be developed together, making for a more efficient and holistic construction process and reducing overall costs. The quality of the construction is testimony to the success of this integrated approach.


Three storey glazed and oak staircase
Owners in the kitchen at Woolbrook House Histon

The decision to use a prefabricated timber-framed structure also made it possible to achieve air permeability 70% lower than required under the building regulations, thus significantly reducing heat losses from unwanted/uncontrolled infiltration. Combined with the higher-than-usual levels of insulation, the building demands considerably less energy to maintain a comfortable environment – with an annual energy demand under 50 kWh/m2/year the house consumes just 40% of the energy expected of typical new domestic construction.

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