Hen House

A self-build home that overcomes a difficult site responding with modern sustainable design, maximising views and natural light in the interior spaces whilst not compromising on energy-efficiency or detail.

About this project

The clients wanted to downsize into in the steeply sloping garden of their existing house. Situated on a steep, wooded plot, with a large proportion of the site area covered by a tree protection order for the woodland's landscape value and significant overlooking issues into or from the existing dwelling the brief presented challenging. To solve these issues, the building was positioned on the lower portion of the site in the spot where the hens previously lived, hence the Hen House. 

The two storey dwelling is carved into the difficult plot whilst maximising amazing views to the West, avoiding mature trees or overlooking their existing property. Accessed on the upper level, the architects created a spacious, light-filled kitchen/living/dining space with fantastic views.

The lower floor houses the bedrooms in a solid, dark masonry plinth with a textured band. The bedrooms feel snug and softly lit to contrast with the bright, spacious upper floor. The project was designed using the Passivhaus Planning Package to achieve an energy consumption of 39 kWh/m2.a. 

Use of Timber

The top-storey is clad in timber shingles which blend the house into its surroundings. The house was constructed from a pre-fabricated timber frame on a masonry constructed base accommodating the difficult levels. Tight site access meant the structure was carefully designed so it could be installed with minimal plant. 

Modern Methods of Construction

A true offsite manufactured timber system was not the initial specified structural solution - however, it soon became apparent that only by using modern methods of offsite construction could this self build scheme be delivered.

Frame Technologies designed, manufactured and installed all the structural timber elements. The structural system was designed to spread the load more evenly, in a uniformed way. This was not only more efficient but eliminating big point loads with a fully vaulted spread, offered the savings on groundworks. It was calculated that the reduction in weight achieved by using this system, delivered £10,000 of cost savings in foundations to support the robust, yet lighter weight super structure.

Tech-Vantage E, a 140mm panel containing Rigid Urethane Insulation, was the preferred timber frame system to not only deliver the project but to achieve the desired performance standards. Manufactured in Frame Technologies’ factory - Tech-Vantage E is a closed panel solution which achieves exceptional U-Values through high performance thermal insulation.


IStructE Yorkshire Region Awards 2018 – Best Small Project 

Sheffield Design Awards 2018 – Shortlisted

Further information

RIBA JournalTreehugger

ImagesDug Wilders

Key contacts




Paul Testa Architecture

Structural Engineer

Jon Carr Structural Design

Planning Consultant

Susan Crowley Associates


Simplicity Construction

Timber structure

Frame Technologies

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