‘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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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.

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