A carbon neutral house on the west coast of Scotland, constructed from a green oak and douglas fir post and beam frame, and clad in green oak boarding with cotton and hemp insulation.
The house stands tall above the rocks to capture the sun and the west light to all the bedrooms, maximising the solar gain.A double height living space opens up to the spectacular views of the islands of Eigg and Rhum and the Arisaig peninsula to the north. Wood floors and limewashed softwood timber linings are used throughout the interior.
The climatic conditions and remoteness of the site at Roshven, on the edge of Loch Ailort, largely determined the primary material choices for Frisealach (“The Fraser’s Place”, 2008). Frisealach has spectacular views to the islands of Eigg and Rhum and to the Arisaig peninsula to the north, but the site’s location on Inverness-shire’s west coast also means that weather conditions there can often be harsh. The site for the house, between a rock outcrop and a lively burn, dictated a long and narrow plan. This precluded the use of the standard timber construction solutions used in Scotland. A more site-responsive approach was required.
The only viable choice for the structure was a pre-cut, large-section timber frame, elevated on 14 green oak posts bolted to concrete pads, eschewing any need to level the ground but also giving the impression of a house floating over the rocks. The post and beam solution uses green oak where the two-storey frame and monopitch roof is exposed externally and uncoated Douglas fir for the internal structural elements.
Inside, the walls and ceilings are lined with fire-treated and lime-washed tongue-and-groove softwood panelling; the flooring throughout is oak.
Externally, the four-bedroom dwelling is clad horizontally with green oak boards, the material’s high durability an important factor in the house’s ability to resist strong north-westerly winds coming in off the sea and, in combination with 200mm of hemp and cotton insulation in the walls, in keeping the interior warm and draught free.
Indeed, Frisealach is extremely energy efficient, heated mainly by a wood-burning stove that sits centrally to the open plan dining and living area. The floor to ceiling windows in the double height space lock perpendicularly to avoid the need for a corner post so that, when open, the view is uninterrupted, with little division between the room interior and the external deck that runs around the house’s north and west elevations.
Settled on its rocky plinth and away from the water’s edge, Frisealach appears at one with its natural surroundings and the extremes of weather that have conditioned its orientation and form. Likewise, the courageous decision to use green timber as the house’s primary construction material (the architects hadn’t previously worked with it) was an important contributor to the development of the design, resulting in an exemplary project in a spectacular location.
The Modern Timber House in the UK, chapter 1
Images: Brendan MacNeill; Helen Lucas Architects