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R.House concept gathers steam with Nairn build

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June 1 2015

R.House concept gathers steam with Nairn build
The R.House rural living concept, a joint venture between architects Rural Design and James MacQueen Builders, has gained some traction with an estate of 17 of the contemporary energy efficient homes planned for Auldearn, near Nairn.

Montrose Woods represents the largest single roll-out of the modular build to date, distinguished by high levels of insulation and airtightness whilst withstanding the elements and offering a rapid on-site turnaround.

R.House and Rural Design director Alan Dickson commented: “Our approach to design is crisp and contemporary but grounded in respect for the environment and history of the area. When we created R.House we set out to design homes that look good, are efficient, functional and sustainable.”

The R.House concept won an innovation in housing award at the 2012 Saltire Housing Awards.

25 Comments

james
#1 Posted by james on 1 Jun 2015 at 11:21 AM
all good stuff.
boaby wan
#2 Posted by boaby wan on 1 Jun 2015 at 11:30 AM
Always quite liked the R-House, would be interesting to see the plans to see how they work within an "estate" as I've always pictured them in rural settings (maybe that's just because of the name)
Auntie Nairn
#3 Posted by Auntie Nairn on 1 Jun 2015 at 13:56 PM
As you say james, all good stuff - both Rural Design with R.House, and Dualchas with Hebridean Homes doing some good work with 'off the peg' housing whilst showing it doesn't always have to be slate and white render.
I'm sure the 'estate' setting will work fine with some careful window placement and pseudo-courtyard layouts - nice.
Auntie Nairn
#4 Posted by Auntie Nairn on 1 Jun 2015 at 14:00 PM
OK, I (partly) take it back - the layout isn't that inspiring at all - http://montrosewoods.co.uk/housetypes/siteplan/
Shame, but still a nice concept.
Mike
#5 Posted by Mike on 1 Jun 2015 at 15:01 PM
Nice house designs, though im not sure a suburban estate layout is always appropriate for a rural setting.
james
#6 Posted by james on 1 Jun 2015 at 15:33 PM
Now i know this is a just maybe a bit fanciful but there is an interesting schism between the image portrayed here and the site plan somewhat dictated by economics and feu equality with its 'suburban' road layout. After all, what is the real difference between the morphology of a suburban layout and that of a township? I wouldn't really want to quibble between minor differences in randomness. http://auchindrain.org.uk/buildings/
Alan Dickson
#7 Posted by Alan Dickson on 1 Jun 2015 at 17:15 PM
Thanks for your comments.
The road layout was inherited from an earlier approval, which was tied in with section 75 agreements and could not be adjusted, the render is a view of the west end of the site.
This is a bit of a hybrid project for us, bringing what we do with R.House in a rural context, to a suburban context. Providing the capacity for personalisation and flexibility that does not normally exist in developer housing. It is certainly evolutionary rather than revolutionary, however it is hopefully our first step in trying to improve the suburban landscape.
Nairn's Bairn
#8 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 1 Jun 2015 at 20:22 PM
Good stuff. Rural Design great as always, showing that there can be such a thing as a well-designed yet affordable housing scheme. And what's that I see - storage? Take note, other Skye architects.

With James MacQueen at the helm it will be well-built too - currently doing great things in Fort William.
CADMonkey
#9 Posted by CADMonkey on 3 Jun 2015 at 13:10 PM
“Our approach to design is crisp and contemporary but grounded in respect for the environment and history of the area."
Explain.
This project is in Nairn on the east coast. Identical houses have been built on Skye on the west coast.
How does that "respect the history of the area"?
The visual clearly shows the same house type being duplicated and rotated through 90 degrees. How does that random approach optimise solar gain, etc...and "respect the environment"?
Alan Dickson
#10 Posted by Alan Dickson on 3 Jun 2015 at 15:37 PM
The marketing people took that text from our website, but I would certainly defend the sentiment. Simplicity is at the core of rural architecture, and I certainly feel our designs bear more relation to local typologies than the standard provided by typical housebuilders.
Whilst the house types are based on R.House standard designs, they have all been fine tuned to this particular location. Houses that are sold off plan will be customised to future owners requirements adding further personalisation and individuality.
We have prioritised views to the woods (over solar gain for some houses), these kind of decisions are not unusual in any project.
CADMonkey
#11 Posted by CADMonkey on 3 Jun 2015 at 15:42 PM
Interesting, how has this project been fine tuned to Aldearn?
Alan Dickson
#12 Posted by Alan Dickson on 3 Jun 2015 at 18:04 PM
Despite the PR, I am not arguing that this is specific to Auldearn. Nonetheless the approach is site specific.
The key issue here is the relationship of the individual houses with the near and distant views found on the site, and balancing this with a hierarchy of public/private space that we do not normally encounter on a "one off" site. This follows our earlier work at the expo in Inverness, whereby the private garden space became a focus for the house, inverting the traditional approach of streetside living rooms etc. The single room depth plans assists this greatly.
If you compare the standard R.House plans with those proposed at Montrose Woods you will see that there are subtle yet important differences.
Auldearn doesn't have a specific character to build from, therefore we look to the archetypal rural forms that are found in the area. These forms are not site specific, and are found throughout Scotland and beyond.
Robert
#13 Posted by Robert on 3 Jun 2015 at 23:07 PM
Alan, see where talking to the monkeys will get you...
Egbert
#14 Posted by Egbert on 4 Jun 2015 at 08:36 AM
Plaudits due to Alan Dickson both for a nice project, and for taking the time to engage on here - good work.
Robert Adam
#15 Posted by Robert Adam on 4 Jun 2015 at 11:08 AM
Why the timber clad panels in the middle of the elevations? In the midst of a simple robust building I see no useful purpose in the inclusion of a potential building maintenance problem.
Tom Morton
#16 Posted by Tom Morton on 4 Jun 2015 at 11:17 AM
the participation of Architects with design intent in a commercial project partnership is welcome, holding long term potential to change the dynamics behind the design quality of rural housing, irrespective of the compromises and PR hype that any individual project has to endure to be realised.
Donald Canavan
#17 Posted by Donald Canavan on 4 Jun 2015 at 11:30 AM
An improvement, particularly as I have seen innovative design proposals in the highlands refused because they did not comprise slate roofs and white painted wet dash, but I still worry about clipped eaves and verges and flat white modified render surfaces leaving staining and rot as a legacy of the current minimalist approach.
james
#18 Posted by james on 4 Jun 2015 at 11:46 AM
Oh! FFS! 5m2 of timber cladding 'a potential building maintenance problem'? What? For less than an hour every two years? FFS!

In the 'midst' - would that also happen to be somewhere in the bleak midwinter snow by any chance? But then again, you probably wouldn't see any useful purpose in life itself, Robert.

Really. It's difficult here not to come across as scathingly sarcastic. Not good.

Commendable engagement by Alan Dickson.
Stewart
#19 Posted by Stewart on 4 Jun 2015 at 13:03 PM
Credit to Alan Dickson for responding in equal measure of intellect to the one half-genuine point as well as to all the daft comments.
Donald Canavan
#20 Posted by Donald Canavan on 4 Jun 2015 at 14:49 PM
An improvement, particularly as I have seen innovative design proposals in the highlands refused because they did not comprise slate roofs and white painted wet dash, but I still worry about clipped eaves and verges and flat white modified render surfaces leaving staining and rot as a legacy of the current minimalist approach.
robert adam
#21 Posted by robert adam on 4 Jun 2015 at 15:11 PM
I don't know who 'James' is but why the aggressive response to a simple question? The traditional type in the area is very simple and it is not beyond the realm of reason to design a good contemporary house that is also simple. The fact is that the use of timber boarding in harsh climates is a maintenance problem, how severe depends on the quality of construction. A hundred recent schemes using the now almost inevitable bits of timber boarding are witness to the detrimental effects of this detail long term. If it is just an aesthetic whim, I repeat the question - why? Is it not possible to do a good simple contemporary house?
james
#22 Posted by james on 4 Jun 2015 at 15:30 PM
Hands. Head. Hold.
Hmmm. North of the Arctic Circle? Harsh Climate? +90% Timber cladding used in Norway. ps like here, it's also very wet.
That's the trouble with absolutist reductivist arguments, you end up taking an extreme position, looking a bit silly.
Who's Robert Adam anyway?
http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2002/03/15098/8741
Alan Dickson
#23 Posted by Alan Dickson on 4 Jun 2015 at 15:38 PM
I am sure it will not be a surprise to hear that I don't agree that well sourced and constructed timber cladding creates a maintenance problem. The same applies to clipped eaves.

This has been our consistent approach since the practice started and given that we are still regularly in contact with most of our clients, and pass by our older projects every day we are happy to stand by these choices.

Thanks anyway for all the positive comments.
robert adam
#24 Posted by robert adam on 4 Jun 2015 at 16:40 PM
Oh dear, why is that trolls are always nasty! If you want to know who I am, look me up.
So asking a simple question is absolutist reductionism. Of course you can maintain anything, it is just that the record on this is not great on recent buildings - my explicit point. My question is simple, why? And is it not possible to do a good simple contemporary building that avoids a gratuitous detail that might just cause a problem? Is that an absolutist reductionist argument? I don't think so.
Alan Dickson
#25 Posted by Alan Dickson on 4 Jun 2015 at 20:34 PM
I was surprised when our developer housing project popped up in Urban Realm, however it is good that it has generated some debate.
I should probably stop, but will make one last comment on this subject as it is close to my heart.

Carefully selected and well detailed (untreated) timber cladding is maintenance free. I would be delighted to show anybody around some of our oldest projects to demonstrate this. We practice and build in one of the most hostile weather environments in the country. I can confidently say I know what I am talking about. If you are having trouble with timber, you are doing it wrong.
We started the design with significantly more timber, the simple truth is limiting the timber to the cladding panels and lean-to were the compromise we had to make with planning in this instance.
If any part of the buildings are gratuitous, it is the rendered walls. Which are really a cosmetic veneer over a timber structure.
Good, simple and honest buildings is always our aim.

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