Replacement House at Ridge End
This blog is being produced to capture the progress of the building of our new house at Ridge End for those who are interested in following the various “posts” that will be added from time to time as the build process continues. It is provided so that friends and family who have expressed an interest in the project can share the experience vicariously through the commentaries and photographs that will form the posts as well as forming a record of the project in real time.

The reasons for building a new house are mainly that our current house is in need of significant refurbishment including a new roof, replacement double glazed windows, fixing of some rising damp and total replacement of the plumbing which has suffered several leaks over recent years. The requirement for a new roof is not a surprise as when we took ownership of the house some 17 years ago the surveyor that surveyed the house for us before we purchased the property warned us that it would probably only last for another ten years. It has outlasted this period by a considerable margin but whilst it is still water-tight the severe weather of recent winters has taken its toll and the roof is now beginning to look quite worn. The plumbing issues however have been disappointing particularly as the hot and cold water and heating systems were renewed when the house was extended in the late 1980s. A refurbishment of this scale would clearly be a major project in itself with an indeterminate cost since we wouldn’t know the full extent needed until the house was stripped to its shell. The activity would be quite disruptive to family life since we would almost certainly have to move out into alternative accommodation whilst the work progressed. At the end of it all we would still have a house that is not now suited to the way in which we wish to live.

Accordingly the prospect of building a new house that better suits our family’s current and anticipated future way of living is immediately appealing. By building a replacement house further up our plot we are able to move to a quieter location further away from the main road which has become increasingly noisy since we moved here about seventeen years ago. Moreover the new house will be positioned more centrally on the property whereas the existing house is located towards the west end of the site. This “lop-sidedness” came about when Ridge End was extended by subsuming much of the garden of the adjacent property (Pine Cottage) in a transaction that was completed by a previous owner some fifty years ago. Building on an adjacent footprint  also provides the advantage that we are able to continue to live in the existing house during the build, relatively unaffected by the construction process.

In these “eco-friendly” days we wish to achieve a significant improvement in energy efficiency with the new house. As far as we can tell the existing house was built in the 1920s in a period when building regulations were unknown. Consequently the building is not at all energy efficient  compared to modern standards. Single glazed metal framed windows are used throughout the house. In some cases walls are single skin brick without any cavity for insulation, although in the refurbishment undertaken when the house was extended in the late 1980s some internal insulation was added. The T shape layout of the existing house exacerbates the lack of energy efficiency since the surface area through which heat is lost is high compared to the enclosed volume. By contrast the layout of the replacement house as a “doughnut” with all the rooms around a central, galleried hall means that the house is essentially a rectangular box where the external surface area compared to the enclosed volume is much less. This provides much greater inherent  energy efficiency.

The existing house has an outdoor swimming pool which is a great feature when the weather is good enough to enjoy it. However British summer weather in recent years has meant that the number of days when the pool has been usable has been relatively few. Of course an outdoor pool is totally un-useable in winter! (At least as far as wimps like me are concerned.) The incorporation of a swimming pool into the basement of the replacement house will give us the amenity year-round whatever the weather while achieving a further big reduction in energy bills. Other features that we have been able to include into the design are a wine cellar, a family TV room, a games/gym room, sauna and steam-room complete with changing room and ablutions, a lift for disabled access to all three floors, a large conservatory, a laundry on the first floor and a study big enough to accommodate all our books and give us room to work comfortably at home. We are also taking the opportunity to incorporate state of the art technology to provide integrated systems for entertainment, IT networking, security and building systems monitoring and control. It is not possible to provide any of these extra features or incorporate new technology to the extent envisaged for the replacement house within the constraints of the existing house.

To be continued…

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