Premier Construction


Written by Roma Publications


Architectural designer and passivhaus consultant Joe Stuart founded design and architectural practice Warehome on the back of building his own home in East London.

On a tight, constrained site, Joe set himself the task of designing and building a better house than he could buy for the same money. The result is a three-storey, six half-floor, property that demonstrates how new build properties can be low energy and use limited space in an intelligent way. Construction on the project, known as FORTY, was completed a little over twelve months ago but as it is somewhat of a prototype build, as tweaks and changes are still being made to continually enhance the home.

Despite this, FORTY has already received significant industry recognition. At the recent Structural Timber Awards the project was a nominee in two categories – Private Housing Project of the year and Low Energy Project of the Year, and won the Highly Commended award for the latter. Premier Construction recently caught up with Joe to find out a little bit more about the work:

How did this first come about?

“It was initially in response to the fact that though living and working in London we couldn’t afford to buy something. It became a personal task to design and build a better house than I could buy for the same money and to have a home that fit our lifestyle, rather than adapting our living to fit a house.”

What was the initial concept?

“The initial concept came about quite quickly but then we ended up going back and forward on a few different items and creating alternate layouts. We always seemed to come back to a more developed version of the original. It was quite clear that it was going to be a constrained because it’s only about 9.5 metres by 4 metres. It’s not like we had lots of room to be playing around with. It’s was about experimenting with the layout to allow us to have something that felt spacious and light, whilst staying a little bit quirky and a little bit different.”

Guide us around the property. What are some of the standout elements?

“The heating demand on the house is about 800 watts, which is the equivalent of about 8 halogen light bulbs. As such we’ve not actually had the heating system on in the house, so it really is low energy.

“It’s a split floor design so it means there’s no unnecessary circulation space. There are no corridors or vestibule areas, it’s all very open. This has been achieved by using half the half floors to transition between rooms. You’re landing space is your room essentially. That means we’re maximising our internal area, not just from a square meterage on the floor perspective but also lines of sight – you can see the full length of the building.

“We were building the walls right up against the boundary so there was no room to insulate behind them. With our engineer we came up with the idea of ‘floating slab’ brackets for the ground-floor and lower ground slabs, similar to the thermally-broken balconies externally on some high-rise buildings. Not only is it a thermal break but also a structural reinforcement should water levels rise in the ground. It’s a clever, dual purpose solution that looking at it now no one would notice but it’s something that’s quite innovative.”

What does it mean to be receiving industry recognition for the work?

“I much prefer a quiet influence to a loud one but unfortunately I don’t think that works in this day and age. To be able to get recognition and discuss the project with a little bit of credibility behind it really helps to explain the benefits to clients and other professionals.

“If our first house can be looked at in this way, then five or six houses down the line we’re hoping to really be breaking the mould. This project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of quite a few suppliers and manufacturers, friends and family, who all got on board and believed in the journey of creating something unique.”

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