John Pullar has re­tained the sea­far­ing her­itage of a once derelict coast­guard tower perched on the edge of the North Sea coast­line, blend­ing tra­di­tional de­sign with a modern ex­ten­sion that takes in the mag­nif­i­cent sea views

Homebuilding & Renovating - - PORTFOLIO - Words Nick Rob­bins Pho­tog­ra­phy c/o SDUK Pho­tog­ra­phy

Ne­ces­sity, they say, is the mother of in­ven­tion. And it was the need for space that drove John Pullar to con­vert a derelict for­mer coast­guard tower in Mon­trose, on the cusp of the North Sea on the east coast, into a home for his young fam­ily. “If there had been a house nearby that was suit­able, I would have bought it,” says John. In­stead he con­tacted the owner of the tower, which had been left stand­ing empty for al­most 40 years — off mar­ket and with no plan­ning per­mis­sion.

Garry Adam, of lo­cal prac­tice GAAP Ar­chi­tects, was brought in to come up with a de­sign that would turn the tower into a fam­ily home, but also get through plan­ning — a task com­pli­cated by the tower’s cat­e­gory C-listed sta­tus (re­garded as a build­ing of lo­cal im­por­tance un­der Scot­land’s listed build­ings leg­is­la­tion). “The plan­ners were ini­tially in­ter­ested in a listed build­ing be­ing brought back into use as a house,” ex­plains Garry, “but then put all man­ner of ob­sta­cles in our way by try­ing to re­ally re­strict the foot­print of the new ex­ten­sion.”

“I think the first two sets of plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions were re­jected, so we ended up hav­ing to have a meet­ing with the plan­ning of­fi­cer where we said: ‘Well, what is it that you’re ac­tu­ally go­ing to al­low us to build?’ And that’s how Garry came up with the de­sign that we have now,” John says.

achiev­ing plan­ning

The plan­ners’ pri­mary con­cern was that the prin­ci­pal el­e­va­tion re­mained un­ob­structed, though un­usu­ally in this case, that el­e­va­tion was con­sid­ered to be the sea-fac­ing one. This left Garry com­ing up with a plan that ex­tended out to the side of the tower — which is more vis­i­ble from the road. The plan­ners were also keen to keep the im­pact low, and in­sisted on a rel­a­tively small foot­print for the new ex­ten­sion. The tower had only two rooms, one on each floor, so Garry came up with a sim­ple two bed­room scheme that al­lowed the orig­i­nal build­ing to be read as a tower from the sea while pro­vid­ing func­tional space for John and his young fam­ily.

The brief pro­vided had been sim­ple: a light-feel­ing new build sec­tion that con­trasted with the heav­i­ness of the stone tower, and the cre­ation of an open plan liv­ing space that made the most of the tower’s po­si­tion over­look­ing the sea. Most im­por­tantly for John, who works for his fam­ily’s fish­ing busi­ness, the house needed to be low main­te­nance: “I’m fish­ing all the time, so I don’t want to be in the house paint­ing and stain­ing. I didn’t want any wood at all to deal with. So that’s why we went down the route of the fi­bre-ce­ment cladding, so we had the look of wood with­out the ac­tual main­te­nance.”

De­spite this, there were chal­lenges — lo­gis­ti­cally the tight site proved trou­ble­some, while con­nect­ing the old and the new sec­tions of the house pro­voked the most head-scratch­ing for Garry. “In the olden days, when the tower was orig­i­nally built, you gained ac­cess via an old stone stair­case that came up the out­side, so to break through the tower to put in the stair­case was the tough­est chal­lenge,” he says. “The so­lu­tion we found was to con­nect the pitch of the stair­case with the pitch of the roof.” Clev­erly, the pitch of the roof in­te­grates a tri­an­gu­lar glazed win­dow that takes in the sea view even when you’re walk­ing up the stairs.

choos­ing the right team

John’s motto dur­ing the build was: ‘Leave

it to the pro­fes­sion­als’, as he knew that it would be near-on im­pos­si­ble to sep­a­rately em­ploy trades, be up to speed for any queries and con­tinue to fish. He placed plenty of trust in Garry and main con­trac­tor Tom McCrank from MCK Con­struc­tion to han­dle any is­sues that cropped up on site: “Once I’d got the right peo­ple on board I thought it was bet­ter to leave them to it, get on with my work and try to pay for it.”

“Two-thirds of the ac­tual house is new build, but the im­por­tant bit is the old,” says Tom, who grew up in the area and had seen the tower stand derelict for all his life. “The old tower was stripped back to the bone, the ex­ten­sion made water­tight and then the in­ter­nal work pro­gressed as if it was one build­ing.

“Ex­ter­nally, the stonework was re­pointed,” he con­tin­ues. “We could have done it with nor­mal mor­tar, but the orig­i­nal mor­tar was made with sand from the beach, so we found the clos­est build­ing sand we could to that. When you look at it in five years and it’s weath­ered, it should look ex­actly the same as it did be­fore.”

The build took around 11 months — with the new struc­ture built on site from glu­lam posts and beams be­fore be­ing clad in Ce­dral weath­er­board from Mar­ley Eter­nit. The stand­ing seam zinc roof and gut­ters were in­stalled by a spe­cial­ist and zinc was cho­sen to con­trast with the stone of the tower, but also to fur­ther add to the zero-main­te­nance cre­den­tials of the house.

Given the house’s po­si­tion, it had to be de­signed to with­stand the heavy wind load and the ex­po­sure, with plenty of in­su­la­tion added to the tower and be­tween the glu­lam posts of the tim­ber kit. The tower is now so well in­su­lated, in fact, that John is con­sid­er­ing adding an air con­di­tion­ing unit to keep it cooler in the sum­mer: “Be­tween the two thick­nesses of in­su­la­tion that our Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions re­quire and the twofoot thick stone walls, it gets pretty warm in there now,” he con­cludes.

Ex­pos­ing the FrameThe lo­ca­tion of the tower and ex­ten­sion, so close to the coast, makes it vul­ner­a­ble to the el­e­ments, es­pe­cially wind load­ings — the ro­bust glu­lam post and beam in­ter­nal frame (painted grey to match the win­dow frames) takes the load. It looks stun­ning ar­chi­tec­turally (above and right) but serves a crit­i­cal pur­pose too. The plan was to in­tro­duce as much glass as pos­si­ble to cre­ate a light, airy space that cap­tures the dra­matic land­scape and sea views. The glazed gable at one end (top right) fea­tures highly en­gi­neered glass (from Esk Glaz­ing), built to with­stand the wind. Strin­gent cal­cu­la­tions were car­ried out by the en­gi­neers and glaziers to en­sure there were no hic­cups when it was fit­ted. The Glazed Gable

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