By Sheppard & Rout Architects associate director, Jonathan Kennedy
In a day and age where humble and modest dwellings are flavour of the month amongst architectural critics, larger, high-end homes are still what many clients aspire to.
With the advent of energy efficient appliances, lighting and heating systems, together with higher levels of insulation and smart passive design techniques, larger homes aren’t always more expensive to run.
It has been common to see larger sites in Canterbury carved-up and subdivided but, for those that go against the grain, the real value is in those sites that retain their land, gardens and outlook.
These sites are fast becoming the desirable ones.
Smaller, modest homes aren’t always what clients are after – often our clients have large families, pets, and stunning sites that deserve homes that stretch out and into the landscape.
In recent years, Sheppard & Rout has completed many larger, high-end homes.
At this level of the market, clients understand the value of incorporating energy efficient systems into their homes – solar power is one such example which offsets running costs and can even pay for itself in just a few years.
By putting more insulation into the home, they are also kept cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter, which means less power is required.
Larger homes often allow our clients the freedom to really flex both their and our own artistic thoughts.
Rather than being constrained to one or two ideas, the scale of these projects allows different moods to be created across the home – from dark, moody powder rooms to bright and airy double-height living spaces.
This contrast of scale and materiality within the house can really add drama to the designs.
One area of design that needs specialist attention on larger homes is the integration of mechanical and electrical installations.
In smaller houses, it’s not such a concern to have separately-switched lights or independent heating/cooling systems but,
in larger homes, it’s important to make sure our clients can efficiently control their homes with fully or semi-automated systems.
This not only includes lighting systems that can control various lights around the house from a single point, but also heating/cooling systems that will talk to one another and be remotely controlled when away from the house.
It has been a common trend in our larger homes to include for a pool and/or spa.
We will always recommend that larger houses be heated with a hydronic system such as wet underfloor heating or radiators – these systems provide a much more comfortable and temperate environment.
The beauty of these systems is they can also be used in the winter months to heat the house, whilst in the summer switched over to heat the swimming pool.
The capital outlay is subsequently less through reduced equipment requirements.
However, this does need specialist input at the design stage to ensure all systems are talking to each other and space is properly allocated and designed for.
Another common request from our clients wanting larger homes, is to design for large windows to allow the best visual and physical connection with the outside environment.
The advent of argon-filled, Low-E double glazing means much higher levels of thermal performance can be achieved with windows.
Thermally-broken aluminium window frames further increase this performance and, together with good passive design techniques, we can make the windows actually help with the thermal performance of the house.
Recent technical developments in building materials, together with wider client acceptance of modern design means the larger, high-end house is still something to aspire to and something Sheppard & Rout Architects always looks forward to being part of.