Sun Slice House and Spa

Neil Dusheiko Architects as Architects

Our brief was to extend and restore a Victorian semi-detached house that had fallen into disrepair in South Cambridge. Our clients also wanted to add a new-build outdoor leisure space to the end of their garden to house a gym, sauna and spa area.

Some of the essential requirements were to create a homeschooling area for the client’s children as well as a home working space for the parents, both of whom work from home.

The original house, although in poor condition, had a great deal of character which we wanted to preserve. We worked closely with our clients, running design workshops, building physical and digital models to test spatial ideas, and exploring atmospheres created by different materials. We also produced full scale mock-ups of the various components throughout the process.

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

We wanted the extension to feel like it was enveloping the existing home, creating a new layer around the older volume, so they could be read together. The eye follows the line of the original house through the skylights in the dining room.

We searched for a material and massing concept connecting the retained parts of the house to the new extension. We achieved this through using Petersen Brick – a slender handcrafted brick which harmonises with the yellow stock brick of the original house. We were also able to salvage for re-use most of the bricks when we demolished the existing outrigger.

Through a series of solar studies and physical models we worked out that if we arranged the skylights on the diagonal running south-east to north-west, we could bounce daylight into the home, without the light blocked by the mass of the existing house.

The two rows of linear skylights create a visual link between the old house and the new extension. A vaulted roof planted with sedum forms the connection between them.

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

We set a horizontal datum level based on these co-ordinates, with the lower part made in Petersen Brick and the upper levels formed in white plaster reflecting late afternoon light into the house. Time is measured by shafts of lights moving in a pendulum fashion throughout the day.

The single-storey side extension is visible from the main road. The handcrafted bricks echo the tones of the original weathered Cambridge clay brick in the street.

The form of the extension was carefully designed, through our solar studies and models, to create a naturally illuminated north-facing rear extension, maximising light through a rear glazed façade and carefully positioned skylights. Utilising daylight analysis software, we shaped the sloped roof of the rear extension to minimise the impact on the light of neighbouring properties, while maximising natural light internally.

The vaulted roofs are planted with a large sedum bed, allowing views of greenery out of the first-floor windows and encouraging biodiversity.

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

Design Challenges:
One of the key design challenges was to pay homage to the character of the existing property whilst at the same time bringing it up to date and providing additional space with a sympathetically designed extension and interior that reflected the personalities of the new owners. This was achieved through the use of many visualisations, testing materials insitu and mock-ups of various elements being fabricated.

Project Team:
The professional team engaged to carry out the project had worked successfully on other projects together in the past and this was our third and largest collaboration to date. This ensured the project ran smoothly and was delivered to a high level of finish, despite our office being a fair distance from Cambridge.

Material use:
The existing stock bricks of the existing house were carefully stored during demolition and re-used to construct the new extension, preserving the memory of the old house in the new design. We made the decision not to clean the bricks above the extension and to re-use all the existing sash windows but infill with specially designed insulated glass panels. We retained and refurbished much of the original structure and fabric of the building.

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

Orientation:
We orientated the two rows of double-glazed skylights to maximise the solar gain and reduce the amount of mechanical heating needed during the day, cutting down on the need for artificial lighting. This made the most of the north-east facing garden facade.

Insulation:
We upgraded insulation levels in the entire envelope, improving U-values by using insulated plasterboard to the walls and a combination of rigid insulation and Rockwool to the floors and roof. All windows are high-quality thermally broken double-glazed argon gas-filled units. We used careful detailing to minimise heat loss through the envelope.

Energy use:
Underfloor heating runs throughout the house with every room being its own zone. We used a central MEV unit, plus 3 x dMEV fans, for ventilation, allowing for a constant feed of fresh air from the outside. All the heated air is recycled back into the house before it is exhausted outside. We used low-energy LED lighting wherever possible, as well as eco-rated appliances and an eco-rated boiler and hot water storage tank.

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

Landscape measures:
In the centre of the garden, there is a vegetable garden next to a natural meadow. The meadow planting creates a foreground screen to the new-build outbuilding made of charred timber. Both the extension and the new-build spa have green roofs promoting biodiversity. We provided an allotment space and greenhouses in the garden for the clients to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

The entire property was carefully considered and through working with landscaping designer, Jane Brockbank we were able to make best use of the garden which includes a lawn, greenhouse, allotments and a meadow garden.

Quote from Architect
Neil Dusheiko said: “The opportunity to create this new home for our clients has been a real pleasure. It embodies everything we love doing and everything that we stand for as a practice. We like to think holistically about how the whole project, from the farthest reaches of the garden to the materials in the bedrooms, come together as one. The homeowners really embraced our design process working alongside us. The results strike the balance that they wanted; a beautiful home which can function for a growing family, providing spaces to work, learn, play and relax. The design respects the historic character of the existing building and its surroundings and nods to something new, exciting and intriguing. The results are also a credit to our team, and the collaboration of a trusted network of professionals who ensured the project ran smoothly and was delivered impeccably.”

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

Quote from owner
The homeowners said: “When we first saw the house, it was in terrible shape, but we saw that as a chance to realise our long-time dream of designing our own home. We were particularly drawn to Neil’s work due to his use of light. Additionally, as clients, it was very important to us that we work with an architect who was not only open to but encouraged their clients to be a part of every step of the process. We were very excited to see Neil and his team's initial drawings of their vision for the transformation of our home and from there we continued to refine details together in an iterative and extremely hands-on process. Neil also helped us pull together a great team of people to support the project including an award-winning landscape designer and a builder whose attention to detail was fantastic. The end result is a gorgeous house that enhances our lives daily through its use of space and light.”

Information about the practice
We are a small studio solely devoted to designing exceptional houses for people who love architecture. You get our full attention, and you won’t get something ordinary. We understand that we are not for every client and we don’t tend to take on projects for the sake of it. So, you’ll know that we’ve chosen you as much as you’ve chosen us. We want challenges where we can think holistically about how a project can have the most positive impact on your life and your family.

None of our projects are approached with a predetermined agenda. However, we want to enjoy our shared experience in translating your ideas and aspirations into a built project. We are here to listen, learn from you and to understand what you want to create. Then do it. Our belief is that all our projects should both enhance their surroundings and have a positive impact on the people that live in them as well as the wider community. Every good neighbourhood starts with a single home. We care about the environment, where materials come from and how they will last over time. What is essential, what is not. We will empower you so that you feel confident about the decisions you make so that you can relax and watch them come to fruition.

We love the minutiae of daily living. From how a handrail will feel in your hands, to where the light comes in. We want the joy that we experience in making your project to be evident and to live on with you long after you settle into the new home we have created together.

photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner
photo_credit Edmund Sumner
Edmund Sumner

Team:
Architect Neil Dusheiko Architects
Landscape Design Jane Brockbank
Engineer Momentum
Contractor Sygnet Style
Quantity Surveyor Measur
Photography: Edmund Sumner

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