The Deerings is a joint project by Gresford Architects and Nicholas Tye Architects for an ultra-low-energy home in Harpenden


Quintin Lake

Built to Passivhaus standards, The Deerings is designed as a sympathetic response to its suburban setting in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. The two-storey rectangular house replaces a bungalow in which the client had lived as a child and had inherited from her parents.


The house was built using a super-insulated timber frame, constructed off-site by MBC Timber Frame and supplied with insulation and an airtight membrane, and erected on a passive slab.  The frame was completed in three weeks, significantly shortening the overall programme, and minimising waste and disturbance to neighbours.


The open-plan ground floor allows the mature garden to be seen immediately on entry through large sliding doors at the rear. A large hallway beyond the front door houses an open timber and steel staircase, which lets light pass into the depth of the plan. Beyond the staircase to the left, a snug and home office is tucked behind a wall, clad in ash battens. The ash cladding also lines the ceiling of the living room to the right of the staircase, adding a warm feel in contrast to the open dining and kitchen areas. The kitchen, handmade by a family member, incorporates concrete worktops, while a generous utility room beyond links back to the front entrance.

The five double bedrooms on the first floor include an en-suite master bedroom with access to a Japanese bath on a roof terrace overlooking the garden. The family bathroom is orientated towards the garden with the bath positioned to take advantage of a view of the trees and sky. A reading area at the top of the stairs overlooks the dining and kitchen areas below.

Horizontal English chestnut cladding on the front and rear facades is punctuated by a composition of windows, with smaller windows located on the side elevations to reduce heat loss and to avoid overlooking.

The Deerings should cost very little to run – a heat exchange system provides constant background ventilation, removing stale air and drawing in fresh air, and the Passivhaus-certified woodburner is backed-up by a gas boiler if required. The Deerings was a joint project with Nicolas Tye Architects, who prepared initial plans and secured planning consent, and Gresford Architects, who developed the design through the detailed design and construction phases.

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