written by:
January 25, 2009
Originally published in Color Comes Home
Were “EcoHat” to come up in passing,you would most likely think of something chunky, organic, and woolen–—perhaps a beanie with earflaps to keep you toasty while chained to a logger’s truck. But in fact, the EcoHat is an innovative environmental housing feature created by British architects Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners (the new name for Richard Rogers Partnership) for the wonderfully un-British Oxley Woods development. The colorful set of detached homes is situated on the edge of the much-maligned planned community of Milton Keynes, about 50 miles northwest of London
EcoHat environmental housing
Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners have made a feature of the roof-mounted EcoHat, which both hides unsightly solar panels and gives a unique look to the properties.
1 / 2
EcoHat environmental housing
With sharp geometry and bold color contrasts, the Oxley Woods homes wear their EcoHats smartly, bringing fresh design to style to energy-efficient technology.
2 / 2
EcoHat environmental housing
Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners have made a feature of the roof-mounted EcoHat, which both hides unsightly solar panels and gives a unique look to the properties.
Project 
Oxley Woods

Were “EcoHat” to come up in passing, you would most likely think of something chunky, organic, and woolen–—perhaps a beanie with earflaps to keep you toasty while chained to a logger’s truck. But in fact, the EcoHat is an innovative environmental housing feature created by British architects Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners (the new name for Richard Rogers Partnership) for the wonderfully un-British Oxley Woods development. The colorful set of detached homes is situated on the edge of the much-maligned planned community of Milton Keynes, about 50 miles northwest of London.

Designed in response to a government competition to create a £60,000 ($121,000) eco-friendly home, the panelized Oxley Woods houses are manufactured off-site, transported, filled with recycled-paper insulation, and erected in about seven days. To minimize costs, service areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and heat controls are standard on all homes, though the buildings vary in size from 700 to 1,615 square feet.

Another standardized feature is the EcoHat. Perched atop the roofs of each of the 145 houses, this is a powerhouse of energy efficiency in a small aluminum box, delivering a neatly packaged system that combines solar power with a home’s circulatory system. Within the EcoHat, solar power heats air as it enters through the roof. This warm air then passes through filters into the living space, or can be used to heat water by means of a heat-transfer coil.

“Inside the EcoHat is a tried-and-tested system called Sunwarm,” explains Andrew Partridge, an associate at Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners. “What we did was manufacture housing that allows us to fit the Sunwarm to all of the properties. In it is a dry solar panel collector, which air is passed over.”

The EcoHat is as typical of the Oxley Woods design as an old-fashioned chimney. The unit is easily accessible from inside the home, allowing for repairs and updates to technology without the need for a cherry picker.

The EcoHat’s casing conceals its unsightly gadgetry, while still allowing the solar panels to be angled for maximum efficiency. “Sometimes in environmental housing you have to orientate the houses quite vigorously,” says Partridge. “This allows for the house to be orientated in any direction, while the EcoHat always points in the appropriate direction for solar efficiency.” To that end, the architects claim that the Ecohat-wearing home can offer up to 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Time will tell whether the EcoHat will be the feature that marks a new generation of British homes, but if it becomes half as ubiquitous as the top hat or the bowler once was, then this piece of rooftop millinery will undoubtedly be declared a resounding success.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016
1973 Palm Springs home
Made for casual design enthusiasts and Palm Springs connoisseurs alike, Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern offers a peek into 51 buildings—some not open to the public—in that Southern California mecca of modernism. Begun in 2008 by photographer Dan Chavkin, the book is set for release this February 9th and will be available on Amazon and at multiple venues of Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 11 - 21. Here we preview some of its images.
February 03, 2016
Millennial concept home with an outdoor living area
A concept home aims to reflect the requests of the Millennial market.
February 03, 2016
The two twelve-by-sixteen-foot bedrooms, directly above a comparable pair on the first floor, feature a glass transom that follows the pitch of the roof. “The stair and railings were very simple,” Depardon observes. “We added a bit of design, with panels
Skylights needn't be simple overhead daylighting; sometimes they can truly define a room.
February 03, 2016
Modern small space Rhode Island cottage with landscaping and cedar cladding
Surrounded by nature, these cottages are tranquil retreats from the city.
February 03, 2016
The couple kept original touches, including the arch.
Historic archways belie these contemporary homes with physical reminders of each structure's storied past.
February 03, 2016
modern guesthouse in norway with angular facade and cutaway patio with spruce cladding and ikea chair
These houses make room for nature, not the other way around.
February 02, 2016
Modern kitchen with yellow sectioned walls and monochrome appliances
Whether it's a splash of color or bold strokes, this collection of interiors brightens up these homes.
February 02, 2016
Rust-washed concrete wall in Moscow apartment renovation.
This 590-square-foot apartment was stripped down to admit sunlight and dramatically reveal forgotten surfaces.
February 02, 2016
Nendo's collection of objects inspired by Star Wars
In a galaxy not so far away, Japanese studio Nendo has released a versatile collection of objects inspired by classic Star Wars characters.
February 02, 2016
Monti catered to his mother’s love of cooking by giving her ample storage areas along the 70-foot long walnut wall-slash-cabinet. The refrigerator, kitchen items and other goods easily disappear into the wall when not in use. The nonporous, stain-, scratc
Sometimes the earthy colors and vivid grain of a wood like walnut is all you need to make a space.
February 02, 2016
renovated modern home in Austin interior kitchen
From California to Connecticut, these midcentury interiors still shine through thanks to the careful attention of architects and residents alike.
February 02, 2016
Outdoor dining area at a Saigon home.
A city home honors the local culture with communal outdoor space and reclaimed materials.
February 02, 2016