River Studio

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Location: Leamington Spa

Client: Sjölander da Cruz Architects

Project Year: 2013

Cost: £100k - £500k

River Studio was originally a packing shed for a market garden and is located in greenbelt just outside of Leamington Spa. We are passionate about repurposing old buildings and wanted to experience, hands-on, the practical requirements of developing a Passivhaus Enerphit studio from an eyesore asbestos clad shell. Our challenge was to create a balance between architecture and physics .

The building is designed within the volume of the original, a requirement of planning. A simple form helped achieve PH standards. Reusing the existing steel structure and floor slab in lieu of demolition allowed reduction of carbon footprint and embodied energy, saving £78k making the project viable and retaining character and memory of the site.

The frame was blasted, allowed to oxidise; flexibility of the existing structure allowed easy adaptation and wrapping in SIPS simultaneously provided high levels of insulation, minimising wall thicknesses and spanning between the existing columns, negating the need for additional structure whilst providing a continuous airtight layer internally.

Restricted on headroom due to the existing height, floor insulation was minimised. As a result, U-values in windows, walls and roof were enhanced. Additional layer of insulation to the SIPs resulted in innovative use of cladding fixings and details avoiding thermal bridging.

It was challenging to detail junctions between existing structure, foundations and new elements to ensure a continuous airtight and windtight layer to limit potential thermal bridging. Detailing played a key part in achieving PH standards and was carefully monitored throughout the construction process.

We utilised raw and industrial materials to create an aesthetic of simplicity and robustness. External cladding is cedar modulated to align with structural bays and windows. Internally simple white walls contrast with oxidised steel, galvanised service runs and a painted concrete floor.

The design optimises daylighting and frames vistas; this balances visual comfort with great views of the beautiful surroundings, encouraging creativity and enhancing wellbeing. The studio layout is simple and democratic. The serviced spaces, WC and kitchen are accommodated together with the plant, to the north side, allowing the studio space to be double aspect. Artificial lighting has been designed to be efficient, reducing energy consumption whilst animating the spaces.

We capitalised on solar gain, but reduced risk of overheating by introducing brise soleil and overhangs in the walls as well as utilising cross ventilation throughout the spaces. Service runs are expressed, which will allow future flexibility and fit in with the simple use of materials and finishes. The MVHR unit has been exposed on the mezzanine area celebrating the mechanics behind the ventilation strategy.

Our final air test achieved 0.4 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals exceeding Passivhaus Requirements. We achieved a predicted heating energy demand result of 18kWh/m2yr well within Passivhaus Enerphit requirements (25kWh/m2yr).

The re-purposing of this unpromising building is an example of how imaginative re-use can be better than a new build option.

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Studio Space

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Views framing landscape beyond

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View towards south-west elevation

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