Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

13 June 2024

Early days for a new project! We’ve been busy sketching some ideas as part of a feasibility study for a site in South Oxfordshire. The brief for this project encompasses some wonderful ideas and challenges for us to think about – an elevated platform to connect with a canopy of trees; a new-build annexe that needs absorbing into the slope of a hill; the extension and retrofit of an existing outbuilding; all alongside habitats for wildlife and growing space for a keen gardener…  

Feasibility studies are a great way to develop early ideas for a project, especially if it’s a little out of the ordinary. They provide an opportunity to explore possibilities, define limitations, and refine a brief – as well as a chance to scope out how much options might cost – without committing to full architects’ services. Sketching at this early stage allows for a quicker iteration of ideas, without the pressure of a design being final – and just as importantly, we really enjoy doing it!

At Sow Space we love being involved with projects from inception all the way through to completion – get in touch if you’ve got the seeds of an idea for a project you’d like to explore.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

24 May 2024

Welcome to our transformative retrofit project in East Oxford! This Edwardian terrace had period charm, but was also dark, narrow, and lacked connection to the outdoors. We opened it up to create light and space: a bright kitchen-diner unfolds onto a reclaimed brick herringbone patio through triple-glazed timber bifold doors. We took extra care to ensure character wasn’t compromised, with wood fibre insulation installed internally / externally whilst preserving original details.

Our client’s primary aim was to minimise environmental impact while maximising comfort. We achieved this by specifying natural materials with low embodied energy throughout and reducing energy use by 82%. Relative humidity is within the recommended 40-60% and summer overheating less than 2%. With the heat pump and renewable energy supplier, we can proudly say that the house is now net zero in operation and an exemplar of how to improve our existing housing stock.

Get in touch if you’re looking for a specialist architect to update or improve the energy efficiency of your home. Whether a period or modern property, we’re here to make your project a success.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

21 March 2024

Happy Spring Equinox and Persian New Year to all! In keeping with the theme of renewal, we’re posting about a new-build project we completed some time ago, which replaced a neglected 1960s bungalow. The site was a rare gem – looking onto meadows that lead down to the River Cherwell. Our design was all about creating a strong, sensitive connection with the countryside – a building that would give our clients wonderful views, whilst harmonising with both the floodplain landscape at the rear and the suburban streetscape at the front.

This new home also has strong eco credentials. Designed to Passivhaus principles, the timber frame construction allowed for high levels of airtightness. Natural materials such as cellulose insulation and timber finishes minimise embodied energy and overall environmental impact. And two large inset solar PV arrays generate an abundance of clean, renewable energy, with excess diverting to hot water.

Get in touch if you have a new build project in mind – as specialists in ecological architecture and energy efficient design, we’re here to help you realise your ambitions in an environmentally conscious way.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

14 March 2024

Anyone need a reminder of the warmer weather? Here at Sow Space, we’ve been collaborating with Oxford Brookes University and Oxfordshire County Council Public Health on the Edible Streets Project. We managed to catch the last fine day of summer last year to plant up the communal raised beds we co-designed with Barton residents for growing edibles. It was a fun day with the local community – the planters may even have been christened with a few glasses of fizz…

Edible Streets is a research project looking at the feasibility of community growing in urban streetscapes. There’s evidence to suggest that easy access to growing space – space actually on your street – can promote improvements in physical, mental and community health, as well as benefits in terms of local biodiversity and sustainable food production. With signs of spring starting to appear, we’re hoping the plants we put in last summer are about to really get growing!

Ecological design and research is an important part of what we do at Sow Space – get in touch if you’ve got a design / research collaboration in mind.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

15 February 2024

It’s been a slow start to 2024 on the journal front! We’re thrilled that planning permission was granted for our project to convert an existing warehouse into four new flats in East Oxford. In a previous life, the building was used to manufacture balsa wood floats and other fishing tackle, but for more than a decade has stood empty. Converting, rather than rebuilding, will retain the distinctive roof shape – a landmark on the street – and celebrate a small piece of local industrial heritage.

Although planning wasn’t simple, we collaborated with the planners to develop a scheme that met their requirements and responded to input from the community. The design keeps sustainability at its heart: the embodied carbon in the original building fabric will be kept locked away, energy efficiency vastly improved, renewable technologies integrated, and the development will be car free. We’re currently working closely with our client through the technical design stage.

We encourage clients to consider the potential of reimagining existing spaces. As retrofit specialists, we’re here to provide help and guidance. Contact us to learn more about our architects’ services.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

23 November 2023

Sow Space has been featured in December’s issue of Build It magazine! Build It is a top source of inspiration, expert advice, and practical help for self builders and home renovators. After our net zero in operation extension and retrofit in East Oxford was shortlisted for an award, we appear in their ‘in focus awards shortlist’ section for “Best Architect or Designer for a Renovation or Conversion Project”. We’re in great company with lots of other high-quality projects and innovations.

Tomorrow (Friday 24th November), we’ll be heading to the Build It awards evening ceremony at the Hilton London Bankside to find out if we’ve won. We’ve invited our clients to the event too, which will involve a three-course dinner, a comedy set by comedian Scott Bennett, and some great networking opportunities. We’re proud to have been recognised for our ambitious project. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome – whatever happens though, we’ll make a fantastic night of it!

Talk to us if you have a project in mind, existing or new build, where you’d like to incorporate low energy and ecological design. We offer full architects’ services and will guide you every step of the way.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

16 November 2023

Say hello to Felicia! We’re thrilled to welcome Felicia Todericiu to Sow Space as a Project Architect. Her passion for design and construction and enthusiasm for life strengthens our team and again, expands our offering. Architecture is about people, and Felicia considers the home the best place to start to improve the quality of our lives. She believes an architect must oversee all work stages and all intricate details of a project to be able to successfully turn a concept into reality.

Felicia is doing exactly this, taking on contract admin duties to see a complex project through on site. She leads a number of projects with technical challenges that happen to have a recurring theme of rebuilding roofs. Felicia loves to travel and sees local cuisine as the best way to get to know a place. An ideal day would involve yoga, quality coffee, and a good book. You’ll also find Felicia taking marathon-length walks with her family along the river, into the countryside, and beyond.

As we grow our team, we’re able to take on more complex and ambitious projects, as well as reduce our lead time for new project starts. Talk to us if you have a low impact project that we can help with.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

04 October 2023

We’ve been shortlisted for an award! Built It 2023 “Best Architect or Designer for a Renovation or Conversion Project”.

A modestly extended, deeply retrofitted Edwardian mid-terrace in East Oxford. The owner had a vision from the outset to create an exemplar property to demonstrate how to reduce energy consumption by up to 80% and create a net zero home in operation. The new kitchen is constructed using natural and recycled materials with glue-free joints and finished with ultra-low-VOC paint. Sow Space supported their client with a list of services that exceeds the normal practice of an architect.

Architect – Sow Space

Structural Engineer – THB Consulting

Contractor – AMC Build

Kitchen – Kite Creative

Photography – Dan Paton

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

28 September 2023

As we welcome the cooler autumn weather and say goodbye to the heatwaves, our summer social seems a long time ago! Our team ventured off to explore the city of Oxford as if we were newcomers. We hopped on the iconic hop-on, hop-off bus, which allowed us to see Oxford’s historic streets in a whole new light. But this was no ordinary sightseeing tour; one of our team members mapped out the best pubs along the route, laying the groundwork for an unusual pub crawl!

What made this outing all the more remarkable was the transformation of our pub-hopping adventure into a mix of cultures and experiences. We ate Thai food in a traditional English pub, sampled local beers along the way,  and closed the day with steaming bowls of ramen, celebrating our shared passion for Asian cuisine. Our adventure took a playful turn with a number of engaging board games, varying from team-related to imaginative guesswork puzzles – we learnt a lot about each other! 

So, not only are we specialists in low energy and ecological building design, we are now experts in where to eat and drink in Oxford! After our summer break, we are refreshed and ready for your new projects.

Kitchen within extension and retrofit project by Sow Space

24 August 2023

In the heart of an urban landscape, a verdant marvel emerges! Our bike shelter living roof is looking lush and green on this sunny summer’s day. It grows a rich and robust tapestry of buttercups, Roman chamomile, alpine strawberries, thyme, marjoram, and lavender. Not only does it look fantastic, it’s an oasis for pollinators and insects, provides a sweet snack (when the strawberries grow), and the evergreen herbs are available all year round for cooking with.

In the context of buildings, living roofs and walls can help green our built environment, which comes with huge benefits. It can help to regulate temperature, reducing energy consumption in buildings, and having a cooling effect on the surrounding environment. Plants and their substrate absorb rainwater, mitigating stormwater runoff and supporting water management systems. They can also improve air quality by filtering pollutants and through photosynthesis.

As architects that specialise in low energy and ecological design, we strive to incorporate living roofs and walls in our designs where possible. Talk to us if you have a building project in mind.