Learn about a house that is constructed from natural materials and designed to make the best use of solar energy.

A two-storey house with a vertical timber facade with trees behind it. The doors and window frames are bright red, and the colour of the timber is faded.
Published: 04/07/2016

This private house has been constructed from natural materials and designed to make the best use of solar energy.

The building occupies an elevated sloping site within the grounds of a former country house overlooking Montrose and the coast. The public areas have been extended externally with a series of decks and balconies. These diminish the boundaries between the inside and outside of the house.

The house includes passive energy systems such as high thermal mass in the floor slab, extensive south-facing glazing, highly insulated walls, and roofs with airtight construction. It also includes low-energy technology systems such as wood fuel stoves, solar panels, turbines and photovoltaics.

Solar energy is used to heat the house:

  • passively through the extensive glazing to the east, south and west, and stored in the high thermal mass of the concrete floor slab
  • actively in the roof solar panels, which connect to the domestic hot water tank

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Timber technologies

The materials are locally sourced, principally from the Highlands. This accounts for all timber used in the construction of the house apart from the window frames and some timber by-products, such as oriented strand board for sheathing.

The post and beam frame, balconies and decking are made from Scottish Douglas fir. Scottish spruce has been used for the external and internal wall framing and panels. The external cladding is Scottish larch.

Other materials and components are sourced from UK manufacturers, while a few are brought in from northern or central Europe. This includes Hunton board from Norway used in the external wall construction.

Special timber-related features

Sustainability is key to the building. Locally grown and chemically untreated timbers are used, along with a carefully selected palette of benign construction materials.

The house uses a building system that typically involves the use of large section of Douglas fir timber for the primary structural frame. It is a beneficial system due to its structural properties and availability. It also promotes greater space and volume.

The house celebrates the use of timber throughout. The structure of the house is primarily an indigenous and untreated Douglas fir post and beam load-bearing frame, with external softwood wall panels. The house is well insulated beneath the floor slab and in the walls and roof. Externally the house is clad in larch and finished with a slate roof.

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