The project takes a complex site, challenging brief and budget constraints to produce an elegant, crisp and stimulating building.  Deemed in open countryside by the local planning authority and in the curtilage of a listed building it was granted planning permission due to an ‘exceptionally high quality of design’. The house consists of a timber frame new build which links to a small existing stone stable block.  These elements along with the new timber framed outbuilding are ‘anchored’ to the existing stone wall which acts as a shield to the prevailing winds and an axis between the new builds.

Project name: Shawm House
Company name: MawsonKerr Architects
Contact e-mail:
Project location: Coldtown, Northumberland, UK
Completion Year: 2017

Other participants:

Shawm – contractor
SHED – structural engineers

Photo credits: Rob Rhodes, Jenny Webb

Products and brands

  1. Icynene – insulation
  2. Tyvex – breather membrane – tyvex
  3. Russwood – timber facade – larch

Shawm House By MawsonKerr Architects - Sheet2The design is contextually driven with a simple barn like form, locally sourced materials and framed views. One is aware of the countryside all around whilst any over-looking issues to the client’s existing farmhouse are successfully addressed. The layout takes precedent from the historic Bastles of the area with the living space on the first floor, though this time it is for spatial quality and views rather than defence.  The house is wrapped in a thick larch ‘blanket’ that seamlessly envelopes the roof and walls, below which is a highly insulated and airtight building.  Internally the clever use of natural light and spatial contrast, combined with the warm textures of wood in contrast to clean white washed walls creates a warm and delightful space for the clients to enjoy.

Shawm House By MawsonKerr Architects - Sheet4Local materials have been used throughout the project. The larch cladding was specifically sourced from the Borders and trees felled from the site itself and have been used throughout the house in the bespoke built-in-furniture, kitchen, tables and stairs.  The stone to the gable end of the house and garage was sourced from Northumberland.

Incorporating Passivhaus principles the building is designed to the highest standards of energy efficiency whilst not compromising on the design aesthetic.  Super insulation to both the new and existing elements, triple glazing throughout, and an extremely airtight construction combined with mechanical heat recovery ventilation all reduce energy demand, allowing the integrated renewables, which include solar photovoltaics and a biomass boiler, to cover the vast majority of the buildings energy needs.   Great care was taken in the detailing of the all the junctions to avoid thermal bridging; the whole timber frame sits on foamglass blocks, the structure above the huge frameless triple glazed corner glass window is entirely cantilevered in timber.  Rainwater harvesting further reduces the building’s footprint, and careful attention to accessibility, including the inclusion of a small lift, future proofs the house and enhances still further the holistic sustainability of the building.

Shawm House By MawsonKerr Architects - Sheet5Remarkably, although it wasn’t the original intent, and despite no previous experience of building at this scale, Richard went on to build the house himself. Though there was initial apprehension with regard to the self-build approach to such an ambitious building it ultimately proved a key contributor to the project’s success, allowing as it did for a spirit of collaboration between ‘architect’ and ‘builder’ through the whole process  and retaining the quality and design intent to the finished building – a true design and build.  Indeed so successful was the relationship that MawsonKerr and Richard are using this knowledge and experience as a blueprint for a new venture that will look to offer a step change in the construction and development of inspiring design led and truly sustainable housing.

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Architecture Construction
& Design Awards 2020

Enjoy 33% off on Standard Registration Fee.

Early Bird Discount Ends on
30th April 2020

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