A Tractor Shed Breathes New Life as an Award-Winning Sustainable Home

A Tractor Shed Breathes New Life as an Award-Winning Sustainable Home

By Lucy Wang
In rural North Yorkshire, a simple agricultural shed becomes a bright and energy-efficient home for a couple and their art collection.

After architect Greg Storrar helped his parents find a place to retire in rural North Yorkshire, England, it was only natural that he—an Associate at the London–based firm Tonkin Liu—also lead the design and construction of his parents’ home, library, and gallery.

A view of the tree-lined approach to the house.

Given the very modest construction budget and the clients’ desire for a sustainable home, Greg and the Tonkin Liu team turned to the adaptive reuse of an existing agricultural shed set far back on the long and narrow lot.

The sedum green roof by Skygarden helps to manage stormwater.

Expanded to 2,260 square feet, the renovated two-story building—dubbed ‘Old Shed New House’—now comprises three bedrooms with a library and gallery space at its heart.

The architects reused and enlarged the steel frame and ground slab to preserve the shed’s original form while cladding the structure in new materials sympathetic to the rural vernacular.

"At each corner of the building the end fins of adjacent elevations are brought together on their inside edge. An inset angle is formed, which the capping plate oversails in the roof plane. The detail disguises the bulk of the external wall and roof by revealing only the galvanized steel fin, just 8mm thick."

"Once a container for tools and tractors, [the building] is now a container for a lifetime collection of books and art," say the architects.

"A tall south-facing library, bounded by mirror-backed shelving and a light-modulating canopy, evokes a forest clearing in the heart of the house," notes the firm.

To the west side of library is a small living room and a dining area that connects to the kitchen.

"The house is a journey of interconnected spaces that alternate between the grand and the intimate," the firm explains in reference to the two double-height library and gallery volumes, strategically oriented along axial openings in alignment with the surrounding landscape.

The long art gallery runs east to west, following the site’s long tree-lined approach and framing the rising and setting sun.

Walls of glass run up the east and west sides of the house, blurring the boundary between indoors and out.

In addition to optimized natural lighting and solar shades for mitigating heat gain, Old Shed New House follows passivhaus principles with a highly insulated, airtight envelope complemented by mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. Rooftop solar panels and solar thermal panels provide renewable energy for electricity and hot water. The architects installed low-energy and low-flow fixtures throughout the home.

An abundance of glazing infuses the home with natural light and lends the illusion of spaciousness. The structural glazing is from Clear Living, while the proprietary windows are by Velfac.

"The design accommodated the use of traditional construction techniques and low-cost materials to ensure a challenging budget could be met," explain the architects. "Through selective reuse, refined detailing, and the holistic integration of structural, environmental and spatial strategies, ‘Old Shed New House’ is a building that aspires to use the least to make the most."

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Two bedrooms are located upstairs.

The architects used engineered oak in all three bedrooms.

The bathroom counters are Corian and the floors are engineered oak.

The project has earned numerous awards, among them the 2018 RIBA National Award and the 2018 Stephen Lawrence Prize.

The home is heated with a high-efficiency gas boiler. The ground floor has underfloor heating, and the upper level features planar radiators.

The building is clad in horizontal shot-blasted larch boards and vertically oriented galvanized steel fins. The cladding varies in height and width to create a patterned facade.

Old Shed New House ground floor plan

Old Shed New House first floor plan

Old Shed New House sections

Old Shed New House location plan

Old Shed New House site plan

Old Shed New House design concept

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Tonkin Liu  / @tonkinliu

Builder / General Contractor: Vine House Construction

Structural Engineer: Rodrigues Associates

MEP Consultant: Integration 

Landscape Design / Lighting / Interior Design: Tonkin Liu

Cabinetry Design / Installation:  Image Developments


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