Zero-Carbon Prefab Revitalizes an Old English Mine

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By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
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A mixed-use development transforms a site where the stone that built Bath was unearthed.

Zero carbon and mining are two topics rarely associated with each other. But the Ralph Allen Yard project by Hewitt Studios, a sustainable mix-use development in Southwest England, successfully reimagined the site where stone that the built the town of Bath was extracted into an array of eco-concious residences. Keeping with the spirit of its namesake, Ralph Allen, an entrepreneur and former mayor of Bath, the project showcases an ingenious, prefab solution to building in rough terrain. 

The challenging topography the architects encountered in the village of Combe Down provided inspiration for the angular construction. Built on a series of terraces with some prefab pieces (as a means to reduce construction disruptions in the residential neighborhood), the project utilized locally sourced timber and ashlar stone, including some recycled from demolished buildings. This view shows the top of the site, which was once the apex of a sloping entryway into a quarry.

 

Each of the nine residential units was made with prefab timber frames to reduce costs and make it easier to work on such challenging terrain. The homes achieve a high environmental rating (Code For Sustainable Homes Level 5 and a BREEAM Very Good rating) via extensive insulation, south-facing windows and balconies, and other green features.

The residences are built in two blocks, seperated by a car park. Other environmental features include a rainwater collection system and the solar panel system on the roof tops, largely hidden by a parapet. Hewitt expects that the cost and energy spent installing the system will be canceled out by three-and-a-half years of generation at this site.

Hewitt Studios collaborated with graphic designers Smith & Jones to create an exhibition space in the mining center, which explores the history of the village. This community center was made to be flexible, with fold-out displays and a moveable workstation.

The interiors of each residence are fitted with energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting.

The prefabricated wood panels that form the exterior of these residences not only cut costs and energy, but also reduced the amount of work needed on such challening, sloped terrain.