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Stone Cottage

An extension and an internal reworking of a 19th century Suffolk farm worker’s cottage. While keeping the original cottage - modest, but typical of the area, and well-known locally - we aimed to expand the accommodation to make it suitable for a modern family to improve the energy performance to the levels compatible with the latest sustainability targets.

An unusual but practical layout is centred around a single long main space on the mid level, incorporating a kitchen at one end and living at the other, all dominated by panoramic views across the farmland to the south. A new two-storey extension to the west continues the living space with a music/guest room on the first floor and the children’s world of bedrooms, shower room and a shared study down below. The original cottage is given over to useful boot, coat and storage space on the ground floor, with the main bedroom (taking advantage of long views and east morning light) up above.

From the outset, our aim was to make this building as energy efficient as possible, starting with the decision to save and re-use as much as possible of the original cottage, and going on to determine very high levels of insulation and airtightness in both the refurbished cottage and the extension. Having got the basic fabric right, the same principal continued in the choice of systems and fittings - a heat pump supplying hot water and the underfloor heating throughout, a ventilation system with heat recovery, photovoltaic panels and low-energy, low-toxicity or reused materials wherever possible.

The result is a comfortable, spacious and light-filled family house that is cheap to run and easy to look after. The data we have collected show that its energy use is a tiny fraction of that of most modern houses, and close to the blue riband Passivhaus standard. Despite what you may read, Stone Cottage shows that ordinary houses can be efficient, beautiful and do the right thing, without a huge budget.

Photographs by Richard Fraser