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Blislands House - New retirement home in Wells, Somerset

The Brief – to demolish the existing 1980’s bungalow and replace it with a three bedroom contemporary retirement eco-home using natural, high quality materials that would sit comfortably within its surroundings in the Wells Conservation Area.  Surrounded by listed buildings, the design needed to work in harmony but also provide privacy within the sensitive, historic urban surroundings.  The retirement home would be ‘age friendly’ and was designed to be fully wheelchair accessible with lift access to the first floor bedrooms. The new home would provide for independent living to cover all eventualities in the forthcoming years but also include a strong green agenda. 


The Design - the proposed design does not try to emulate the historic properties surrounding it, but fuses quality traditional materials in a contemporary design to provide a sustainable, low impact retirement home.  The re-claimed rubble stone which faces the property maintains the sense of local identity and place which ties the building to the local street scene.  The juxtaposition of the traditional stone and contemporary mono-pitch roof gives the home its unique identity.  The design of the shallow mono-pitch roof is also in response to the low nature of the existing bungalow and ensures the replacement home sits down within the site, being only marginally higher than the bungalow’s existing ridge line. 

Although designed as a retirement home with an internal lift and fully accessible open plan ground floor living, the building is very adaptable which ensures its future use as a family home in years to come.   Although not currently required, the house was designed to be fully wheelchair accessible with lift access to the first floor.  This included level threshold entrances, increased width doorways and corridors, a ground floor bedroom with ensuite as well as W.C, and low maintenance external building materials and landscaping.

Internally the project aimed to blend contemporary style with traditional design.  There would be a large open plan Lounge and Dining area which seamlessly links to the south facing patio via large bi-fold doors.  A well proportioned Kitchen with island unit and seating was accompanied by a Utility and unheated larder/cold store both located to the northern side of the property.  A Master Bedroom with Dressing and Ensuite has been designed at ground level.  A large Garage enables the occupants to park and enter the house internally.  Finishes to note internally include polished concrete floor as well as walnut internal doors and a curved spiral staircase leading to the first floor designed in-house by CAD.  There are two further Guest Bedrooms at first floor level both with Ensuites. Off the landing at the first floor is a large balcony to enjoy the evening sunshine and views of Wells Cathedral. 

Green Agenda - The design was also born out of the need to produce a sustainable low energy retirement home – passive solar, natural ventilation, high levels of insulation, a living green wall, natural daylight via rooflights and glazing, high quality natural materials with low embodied energy and efficient heating via air source heat pump, underfloor heating distribution and energy saving appliances are all incorporated within the design to minimise the consumption of building materials and energy.  The southerly orientated house benefits from passive solar gain via southerly glazing to pre-heat the air.  To avoid overheating the roof sails out to offer shade in the summer months and southerly, easterly and westerly windows combined with rooflights provide rapid purge ventilation.   The open plan layout and full height central stairwell atrium vented by the first floor rooflights allows passive stack ventilation.  The building materials have low embodied energy with reclaimed natural stone walling, integral stone dust render, zinc roof and natural untreated timber boarding.  The envelope will be highly insulated and airtight with double glazing and the property aims to improve on the basic levels required by the current Building Regulations.  Natural light is fundamental to the scheme with windows, bi-fold doors and rooflights allowing daylight into the property.  Rooflights to the full height central stairwell allow borrowed light to filter down to ground level.  There are no windows to the north elevation to minimise heat loss (as well as ensuring there is no overlooking of the grounds of Wells Cathedral School). This reliance on natural daylight reduces the use of artificial light which will be via low energy LED’s.  Heating will be via an air source heat pump distributed via underfloor heating pipes.  Efficient appliances will be installed throughout such as water saving toilets.  The planning application has been accompanied by an independent tree report to ensure the existing trees are not damaged during and after the building works.  These trees are a valuable part of the site providing positive environmental benefits in the urban setting as well as ensuring the replacement dwelling is well screened from the neighbouring properties.   

Project work undertaken by CAD before construction could take place included design concept and sketch schemes, full planning permission, listed building consent and building regulations approval, archaeological approval, arboricultural approval, construction drawings, specification of works as well as a party wall award.  CAD was appointed as contract administrators to oversee and run the project on site during construction.

The Build –the project was tendered to four local contractors and the chosen contractor had a good reputation and had constructed high quality contemporary projects in the locality.  As contract administrator, we worked alongside the client and contractor to ensure the project run smoothly which involved regular site visits, valuations and certifying the works. 

'We are delighted with the design of our wonderful retirement home in Wells.  Tim's attention to detail and management of the entire project from start to finish was superb, he made the whole project really easy and stress free for us!'   Mark and Shelagh (May 2019).

Build Route - Mains Contractor.

Completion Date – July 2019.

Air Tightness  - 4.04 (N.B. Building Regulations requirement = 10.00)

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