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The Little Big House, Hertfordshire

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Knox Bhavan’s energy-efficient home that effortlessly serves the needs of a client paralysed from the shoulders down wins 2024 RIBA East Project Architect of the Year

The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner

2024 RIBA East Award
2024 RIBA East Project Architect of the Year Fergus Knox

The Little Big House, Hertfordshire
Knox Bhavan Architects for private client
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 198m2

The Little Big House is a unique home and the result of a genuine engagement between the architect and the client. The fluid connection of interior and exterior and the changing qualities of daylight in the interior spaces create a place of calm and beauty that would be admirable in any design. What is remarkable here is the way the project achieves this while effortlessly incorporating the specific needs of a client who, following an accident, has been paralysed from the shoulders down. Full accessibility, the housing of medical equipment, and the need for live-in care have been accommodated with no impact on the character of the home as a place to live. Externally, the house expresses itself as both sheltering and extrovert, with its overhanging roof forms making a successful and characterful statement within the leafy context of a Hertfordshire village.

  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
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Most of the accommodation is on the ground floor of the house, with a two-bedroom carers’ suite at first-floor level. On arrival the first impression is of the cantilevered roof canopies which provide protection for the client when transferring from a vehicle into the house. Entering the building, the careful way the plan is organised as a series of layered spaces, including courtyards and gardens, from public to private, is evident. Adjacent to the entrance is a more public studio, a key part of the brief and which the client uses for mouth-painting. Beyond this, the double-height living space provides a real sense of connectivity and openness to the dwelling. To the rear is the principal bedroom, opening onto the garden. These areas are separated from each other by carefully detailed pocket sliding doors, enabling spaces to open up or close down to provide different levels of privacy.

The client’s commitment to environmental sustainability drove the brief for the project, in particular the extensive use of timber for cladding and also for the innovative prefabricated structural cassettes. This approach has driven down the building’s embodied carbon and has delivered a fabric-first, energy-efficient envelope which has resulted in exceptionally low actual energy use. This is complemented by renewable energy sources.

  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
  • The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
    The Little Big House. Credit: Edmund Sumner
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The house was driven by a real understanding by the architects of the client’s needs. This is evident in the way that the perspective of a wheelchair user, and everyday routines of living, are reflected in elements such as the location of windows and priority given to functional spaces. For the vital role he played in interpreting the client’s aspirations for the design and successfully translating them into construction through the challenging Covid-19 pandemic period, Fergus Knox – who has known the client since his teenage years – has been awarded RIBA East Project Architect of the Year. The project illustrates the way that good design can, in a very real sense, be life-enhancing.

See the rest of the RIBA East winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com.

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Philiam Construction
Structural engineer Structure Workshop
M&E engineer Paul Bastick Associates
Cost consultant Ian Thomson & Company
Timber frame engineer Price and Myers

Credit: Knox Bhavan Architects
Credit: Knox Bhavan Architects
Credit: Knox Bhavan Architects
Credit: Knox Bhavan Architects
Credit: Knox Bhavan Architects
Credit: Knox Bhavan Architects

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