‘This is how houses should be built’ – eco-home sets standard for luxury
This luxury house has plenty of ‘wow’ factor and boasts the latest in green and new technology. Sharon Dale reports.
THE workmen on site have a nickname for their boss Damian Lawrance. They call him “The Hurricane”.
“He rushes in with loads of new ideas and says: ‘Right lads. Here’s what we’re going to do. Then he sketches out exactly what he wants, really fast, a bit like Rolf Harris,” says builder Adrian Kelliher.
Creative whirlwind Damian is the man behind 1 Zero 4 – that’s 104 Leeds Road in Harrogate – a magnificent high-tech, eco house that has just won the Best Residential Property prize at the RICS (Royal Institution of Surveyors) Pro Yorkshire Awards.
The attention to detail that Damian demands and his team at LaRock Construction delivers, along with the property’s innovative design and sustainability, impressed the RICS judges, who recognised that this is a project that has taken blood, sweat and tears.
The former number 104 was a two-bedroom 1960s bungalow that LaRock demolished to make way for something almost seven times more spacious and three times as high with ten times the bling.
Needless to say, Harrogate Council took some persuading, even though LaRock didn’t increase the size of the original plot, and the project spent a year in planning before getting the goahead. It took another 18 months to build, alongside other LaRock schemes, and the enormous, four-storey, five-bedroom house is now on the market for £1.6m.
There is no shortage of interest in this luxury eco home and after a tour it’s easy to see why. The design makes the most of the site, while minimising intrusion from the busy main road. The Planitherm 4 seasons glazing cuts out traffic noise and the main living rooms and bedrooms are at the quiet rear of the house, where there is a lawned area and a series of sunken outdoor rooms leading down to the large lower ground floor, which boasts a cinema room, gym and kitchen/family space.
The basement level adds an enormous amount of square footage but was an expensive part of the plan. It required a dampproofed steel and concrete shell up to ground level, where a new construction technique was used.
Instead of brick and blockwork, the rest of the house is built from thermally-efficient polystyrene blocks filled with concrete. The Logix Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) system was then covered with render and structure topped with a warm roof made from structural insulated panels (SIPs). A double air source heat pump is used to warm the house, photovoltaic panels create electricity and solar panels heat the water. A rainwater harvesting system is used to feed the outside taps and the toilets. The eco elements ensure that the house is 50 per cent cheaper to run than a conventional property of this size.
LaRock has also installed a state-of-the-art home automation system controlled via iPads. It’s all-singing, all-dancing and can even tell you how much rainwater has been harvested and how much solar energy has been generated and used, as well as controlling the lighting, audio, TV, security and heating.
Damian says: “There are room sensors that monitor both light levels and room occupancy. If they are on automatic setting, the electric light level will only supplement the natural light, effectively making the lights grow brighter as the day grows darker and if there’s no-one in a room for 30 minutes you can programme the system to switch the lights off as well as other devices like the TV and games console. It’s about using the least amount of electricity possible.
“You can also access the system remotely, so gates can be opened, alarms set and light and heat switched on and off when you’re on holiday or in the office.”
This thoughtfulness and attention to detail is also evident in the finish and fittings. Many of them are designed by Damian and made by LaRock’s workshop. His craftsmen joiners created the window frames, staircase, beds, kitchen and the walk-in dressing rooms with velvet-lined walnut cabinets, as well as interior flights of fancy like the upholstered headboard that covers the whole of one wall and hides a secret door into the dressing room and en-suite bathroom.
It’s all very glamorous but practical with a brise soleil shade to prevent a greenhouse effect from the glazing and a dumb waiter to take shopping from the garage down to the kitchen.
“Almost everything is bespoke,” says Adrian, my tour guide, who has a history of working on interesting schemes, including the revamp of Aldourie Castle for Roger Tempest.
“Damian will see something new on his travels and decide the house needs it. If it means spending another £3,000 he’ll spend it. It’s more interesting working for someone like that. You get a lot more out of the job.”
All in all, the cost of construction was about 15 per cent more than a conventional build and worked so well that LaRock is creating a smaller version of 1 Zero 4 on another Harrogate site and is offering design and build packages for individuals who have plots of land.
“This house is a brave development in these difficult economic times,” says Damian, who set up LaRock six years ago after working at City Lofts. “but it is a showcase for what we can do using modern methods of construction and home automation and I think it’s how houses should be built.”
BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS:
1 Zero 4 was a bold venture in difficult economic times. The rear of the property, which shows the four levels, including the new basement that houses a state-of-the-art kitchen with a minimal interior. Enormous fridges and storage cupboards are hidden behind glossy floor-to-ceiling doors.