Located near the county’s only sand dunes and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the client wished to build a pair of beach houses.
The basic brief for each was for open plan living/dining/entertaining spaces and two main and two guest bedrooms. These weekend and summer residences also had to maximise the opportunities offered by the views, but with minimal impact upon the protected landscape environment.
Functionally, the buildings needed to be flood resilient, resistant to often hostile marine conditions and be constructed from natural, sustainable materials. All of this to be accommodated in an understated but confident architecture that would sit comfortably alongside existing neighbouring beach houses and the natural backdrop of the changing landscape of the sand dunes and sea.
To firmly anchor the Beach Houses to the site, WAM design opted for heavily insulated (200mm) concrete formwork (ICF) perimeter walls at ground floor level, with exposed beams formed from laminated veneer lumber spanning between the walls and supporting the upper floor and roof structure formed from the same material.
The external surfaces of the houses needed to be able to withstand some extreme marine elements in their exposed coastal position. Given this factor, the architects chose Kebony® for the external cladding, in part because of its proven durability when used in harsh climates, but also for its ability to deliver the visual and performance requirements of the design without causing associated environmental degradation—the ultimate benefit anticipated being the silver-grey patina that the Kebony® would develop to echo the natural colours of the dunes and help the buildings blend into the seafront.
In some respects, this was easier said than done: the construction team had to battle sand storms and, to gain access to the site for material deliveries, a temporary corrugated iron road from an adjoining public car park had to be laid across the beach beneath the sand. This limited access to the winter months when the beach was less used by the public, thus ensuring that construction had to be carried out in the worst possible of weathers.
The harsh conditions also demanded the use of marine grade stainless steel or powder coated fixings and metalwork throughout. Bravely perhaps, but confident in the cladding product, the architects chose to eschew external gutters and to carefully detail the ridges and eaves to produce a seamless, crisply-finished Kebony® envelope to both houses, decisions vindicated by the numerous awards the buildings have since received, including the East Sussex Heritage Trust Award 2016, the Surface Design Sustainable Award 2016 and the RICS Residential Design Award 2017.
The Modern Timber House in the UK, chapter 4
Take a closer look at modified wood.
Find out how to specify modified wood.
Images: Stuart Martin