Designing two adjoining single-aspect houses for a compact, overlooked backland site in London, architect Horden Cherry Lee answered the need for privacy with a facade of angled photovoltaic panels that also generates around half of the average energy demand per day – enough to meet daily electricity requirements.
Accessed via a narrow passage from the busy Fulham Road, the yard previously contained six lock-up garages. Each of the two 150-square-metre houses provides four bedrooms, arranged over the basement and first floors, with a generous living area and kitchen on the ground floor. They have steel frames, and yellow London stock brick party walls to the rear and sides.
The south-facing main elevation, to the yard, is directly overlooked by the backs of houses on Fulham Road, however, and a different treatment was required. Blue-coloured photovoltaic ‘shutters’ are fixed vertically to the facade, extended over both ground- and first-floor levels. The solar screens are fixed at a 45-degree angle to the facade, allowing daylight and sunlight to filter through, but allowing only oblique views in and out. They are “an integral part of the architecture, providing energy, privacy and filtering light”, says Billie Lee, director of HCL Architects. “The shading allows daylight without overheating the interior. Privacy is given in a compact location, and the houses still retain an open and filtered light quality.”
Behind the protective screens, the south-facing elevation is extensively glazed, with a mixture of full-height windows with sliding glass doors on each of the three levels, and a Juliet balcony at the first floor. The naturally occurring decorative finish on the multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaics, which are distributed by Romag, means that an eye-catching dappled light is created in the interiors. Each house incorporates five of the two-metre-tall, 1.2-metre-wide panels.
The building also has a sedum roof and rooflights over the bathrooms and staircases to maximise daylight and enable ventilation. “Integrating renewable technologies into residential buildings in this bold way is rare in Fulham”, says Lee. “We enjoy that the building’s technology and ecology are an intrinsic part of the architecture, not hidden or disguised, but celebrated and enjoyed.”