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Cwm Barn, Hereford

Words:
RIBA Regional Jury

Arbor Architects’ striking yet modest sustainable addition to a family home embraces Japanese Wabi Sabi – the celebration of the beauty of imperfections – and wins a 2024 RIBA West Midlands Award

Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock

2024 RIBA West Midlands Award

Cwm Barn, Hereford
Arbor Architects for private client
Contract value: Confidential
GIA: 97m2

Set in a rural location in Herefordshire, Cwm Barn is a striking yet modest addition to an existing house. Clad in black standing seam zinc, it is a detached ancillary building that provides a retreat space for the clients and their teenage children, incorporating a home office, exercise area, plant room, and multi-functional family room. While not physically linked to the existing building, the architect has designed it to create a courtyard with it, and it articulates its own entrance under the wide canopy.

Materially, the project embraces the Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi sabi’, which celebrates the beauty of imperfections in the natural world and in the patina of a material’s use. It also uses a variety of home-grown, locally sourced timber. It is an exemplary architectural project that encapsulates a low-carbon, energy-efficient and adaptable approach to family living in a rural context.

The building was designed using fabric-first principles, using a high-performance twin stud wall system, built off site by a local contractor. The airtight and vapour breathable panels were fully filled with recycled newspaper insulation. As a result of the approach, this project betters the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge target for energy in use, and achieves impressive airtightness.

  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
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Furthermore, the project is imbued with sustainable principles throughout – from carefully selected materials for the interiors that produce an olfactory delight, to the simple yet playful celebration of the rainwater harvesting. It also provides transition for the existing home towards on-site renewable forms of energy generation.

Within its small confines, strategically placed windows allow natural light into the interiors, infusing the spaces with a sense of intimacy and connection to the surrounding landscape.

The jury was impressed by how the project demonstrates the transformative power that architectural design can have, where it permeates all decision making. Through this design journey, the client and architect have demonstrated in Cwm Barn that sustainable design isn’t merely a set of techniques, but a philosophy – a way of honouring the planet while enhancing human experience.

  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
  • Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
    Cwm Barn. Ellen Hancock
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The result is a beautifully designed, quietly confident building without pretension, yet with impressive sustainability credentials which have transformed the clients’ approach to living and can advance building practices.

See the rest of the RIBA West Midlands 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 Firth Construction
Structural engineer Build Collective
Landscape architects Reckless Orchard
Interior design Christie Studio

 

Credit: Arbor Architects
Credit: Arbor Architects
Credit: Arbor Architects
Credit: Arbor Architects
Credit: Arbor Architects
Credit: Arbor Architects

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