Steep Wedge House, Co. Cork
A finalist in the Irish Building & Design Awards 2019, Steep Wedge House is a one-off residential project providing an outstanding example of how to unlock the potential of a seemingly impossible suburban site.
Shortlisted in the Architectural Project of The Year category of the awards, the house, at 6 The Fairways, Maryborough Hill, Douglas, Co Cork, is constructed on the site of a former builder’s yard.
The house was designed by Gareth Sullivan of Simply Architecture (who is also the house owner), and the project follows several failed planning applications for a one-off house on this site. This was due to the site being traversed by three wayleaves, with county council service pipes beneath.
The site is steeply sloping and located next to a busy motorway. The success of the project came down to careful consideration of the restricted space available once all the wayleaves were observed.
This left a very small wedge-shaped footprint in the corner of the site. To fit a family home into this small area required that every bit of available space outside the wayleaves be developed. Given the unusual shape and the steep slope, aesthetics, orientation and access all became issues that needed to be carefully considered.
The project sets a leading example to the construction industry as to what is possible when innovative design is embraced.
Gareth Sullivan of Simply Architecture said: “The project invites us to look beyond obvious development sites to overcome housing issues in our country. It also demonstrates how passive house standards can be achieved simply through careful detailing and clever construction methods. “This project shows that a much better standard of housing stock is possible with an emphasis on energy efficiency, light and quality of space, regardless of the many restrictions a site may offer, and therefore deserves recognition in the context of our current housing crisis.”
The design solution responds to a variety of challenges in terms of orientation, overlooking, topography and budget constraints. The design also needed to achieve passive house standard, despite having a forced site orientation which limited southern exposure.
The result has achieved architectural excellence by managing to meet all of the criteria – and delivered a beautiful piece of architecture that is sustainable, considerate of its context and well resolved in terms of floor plan.
Gareth Sullivan commented: “The house form follows the only space available, and is therefore an unusual wedge shape. To ensure the highest level of value and quality, it was decided that the building fabric would be designed to exemplary levels and would achieve passive house standard.
“An EPS insulated raft foundation with a timber frame structure proved the most efficient construction method. The timber frame is a certified passive house system, and thermal-bridge free detailing was employed throughout.
“In choosing materials such as cement board cladding and cellulose insulation, we also ensured the house has used 77% less embodied CO2 than if the same design had been built in standard cavity wall construction.”
The house has a BER rating of A2 and is a fully recognised passive house, certified by The Passive House Institute in Germany.