Existing and proposed plans of extension and retrofit project by Sow Space Architects Oxford

23 March 2023

Edible Streets! So, how about it? We’re super excited to be involved in this Oxford Brookes University research project exploring the feasibility of creating edible streetscapes in Oxford. The idea is to integrate food production on publicly owned and publicly accessible land on streets where people live and work, by using underused urban areas bordering urban streets. The edible plants are visible by anyone walking in the street, easy to access by occupants of the street for maintenance and harvesting – making it easier to participate in food production.

The project is a collaboration between the School of Architecture, Centre for Nutrition and Health, Centre for Psychological Research, PhD student Chris Blythe, Sow Space Architects’ Practice, Oxfordshire County Public Health, and Elizabeth Parker – Impact management public engagement expert. To learn more and see updates about this project, visit the Edible Streets website here.

Talk to us if you have a design / research collaboration project in mind and / or if you’d like to discuss how we as architects can help you to integrate food production in the built environment.

Existing and proposed plans of extension and retrofit project by Sow Space Architects Oxford

02 March 2023

Windows installed! The windows on our Oxford new build were installed using a spider crane, which can move through very tight spaces, before stretching its legs to stabilise itself. These large panels were particularly heavy too, being alu-clad timber frames with triple glazed units. The thermally broken engineered timber frames offer a low embodied energy and a warm internal finish, while the relatively small amount of aluminium cladding provides a robust maintenance-free external finish.

The large expanses of glazing were designed to provide picturesque views of the fields beyond. While the high-performance glazing offers Passivhaus levels of insulation and minimal thermal bridging, there is potential for overheating. As well as specifying lower g-value solar control glass, a large flat roof overhang provides shading to the ground floor, while the yet-to-be-installed vertical timber cladding will have a deep void behind to accommodate future external roller blinds.

There are many factors to consider when aiming to achieve a low energy, sustainable, and comfortable build. Talk to us if you’re looking for architects that understand holistic ecological design.

Existing and proposed plans of extension and retrofit project by Sow Space Architects Oxford

26 January 2023

Starting the new year with a bang! We’re excited to help our client convert this warehouse in East Oxford into residential units, providing much-needed new homes in Oxford. While the building could be replaced with new, it will have a much lower environmental impact to retrofit and convert it. As we progress to ever higher standards in energy efficiency in operation, it’s embodied energy in the manufacture of its materials that’s making up more of a building’s overall impact.

The existing structure has been assessed by an engineer and is more than capable of being retained. Exposing this structure and maintaining the building’s form will give a nod to its industrial past. A new front façade will be required with elements of glazing to provide natural light, ventilation, and an outlook for the newly created residential spaces. We will explore the integration of living walls with balconies to enable access to edibles, helping further reduce the residents’ impact.

Staggeringly, 80% of UK homes that will be standing in 2050 have already been built. It’s critical that we retrofit our existing buildings. Talk to us if you’re looking for architects that specialise in retrofit.

Existing and proposed plans of extension and retrofit project by Sow Space Architects Oxford

15 December 2022

New project start! We’ve not announced one of these for some time, despite having a number of exciting projects start this year. This grade II listed cottage in the heart of an Oxfordshire village is loved by the community. Next to it sits an unsightly and poorly built garage. The owner is looking to replace the garage with a new building of a much higher quality design and performance, to provide additional ancillary accommodation, including much needed home working space.

The new building will have a contrasting contemporary design, to avoid any pretence that it was an original building. However, care will be taken to ensure it is discreet, remains sensitive to the cottage, and fits in with the wider village scene. It will do this by taking cues from the cottage and village in its overall form and choice of materials. Energy efficiency and ecological impact will be of the utmost importance, using the fabric first approach and a low impact material palette.

We’re developing the design with client and contractor to ensure that ecological impact and buildability are considered from the outset. Talk to us if you’re looking for a specialist architect for your project.

Existing and proposed plans of extension and retrofit project by Sow Space Architects Oxford

17 November 2022

Planning permission granted! This part single, part two-storey rear extension and whole house retrofit in south Oxford had a whole host of challenges. With a growing family and visiting extended family, our client wanted to utilise all available space on the site, which borders a conservation area with a grade II* listed building and protected tree as a backdrop. Our challenge was to come up with a proposal that satisfied our client’s brief while respecting the sensitivity of the site.

Our first proposal was not acceptable to the planning officer, so we negotiated closely with them to come up with a revised scheme that was finally approved. The result almost doubles the ground floor footprint, providing a balance of spaces that meet this particular family’s needs. The building fabric will be significantly upgraded thermally, while a heat pump will keep their environmental impact low. We have just completed technical design and invited builders to tender.

We provide all architects’ services from defining the brief, to overseeing construction and beyond, with the added specialism of ecological and energy efficient design. Talk to us about your building project.

Edwardian terrace opened up and prepared for external wall insulation by Sow Space Architects Oxford

27 October 2022

A site progress photo from one of our projects under construction! This extension, remodel, and deep retrofit of an Edwardian terrace in East Oxford will be a real showcase project for how to reduce energy in-use by 80%. Measures include IWI to the front to maintain the existing elevation, EWI to the rear to minimise thermal bridging and achieve a client-driven modernist aesthetic, replacement windows and roof for future solar PVs, insulated floors, and an ASHP.

We are lucky to have a very environmentally-conscious client looking to reduce impact holistically. Where possible, materials have been selected with a low embodied energy, including timber insulation, windows, and kitchen, to be finished with vapour permeable and / or low VOC finishes / paint. While not mandatory, the client will carry out an air test and has commissioned us to do monitoring and thermal imaging pre and post construction. We look forward to the results!

We’ve been involved from inception in providing a feasibility study, to contract admin services on site and POE. Talk to us if you’d like a specialist architect to guide you through the whole process.

Timber fibre insulation installed on a solid wall with a new timber double glazed window by Sow Space Architects Oxford

29 September 2022

Summer is officially over, and the autumnal weather has arrived with a welcome freshness! We had a well-deserved extended summer break, while September has been fully utilised to catch up, hence the lengthy pause in our practice updates. We’ve started a number of new and exciting projects, had fun exploring interesting concepts, negotiated and won planning permissions, and continue to design and oversee construction on several low energy builds, new and retrofit.

Here is a site photo of our new build timber frame house in Oxford under construction. The walls are lined with a high-performance foil vapour control layer, taped to provide a continuous airtight layer on the inside of the insulation. A service batten void ensures that any services do not penetrate and therefore compromise airtightness. This first floor landing area will receive a large triple-glazed window to show off the stunning landscape that the house was designed around.

We’re excited to share more updates in the months to come, including introductions to our new team members. In the meantime, get in touch to speak with architects that specialise in ecological design.

Timber fibre insulation installed on a solid wall with a new timber double glazed window by Sow Space Architects Oxford

21 July 2022

Site progress update on our retrofit project! Our client reported fridge-like winter temperatures in their pre-1900 solid brick and stone house in West Oxfordshire. To address this, we carried out a whole house appraisal to find a balanced retrofit approach alongside other required building work. As a result, we are installing 60mm timber fibre internal wall insulation (IWI), 180mm skeiling insulation, 225mm loft floor insulation, and replacement timber double-glazed windows.

This insulation product is made from waste wood, which is heated and pressurised and formed into boards. Not only do they have excellent thermal and acoustic properties (the sound-deadening was like that of a recording studio), unlike lighter weight synthetic insulation, timber fibre has thermal mass helping to keep rooms cool in the summer (very apt given the heat waves of late). Breathability allows moisture to move through the building fabric – crucial in older buildings like this one.

Not all building professionals have this knowledge, so it’s important to appoint an architect with experience in a variety of building types and retrofit measures. Talk to us about your project.

House in east Oxford stripped to the bone ready for extension and retrofit by Sow Space architects

14 July 2022

Construction starts on site! Our client in East Oxford is carrying out a significant extension and refurbishment of their 1930s end terrace. The whole rear of the house will be extended, using timber frame and glu-lam construction to almost eliminate the use of steel structure. A structural thermal block has been specified around the base perimeter to reduce thermal bridging, made from cellular glass that does not shrink or degrade over time, with potential for re-use in future projects.

While the fabric of the new extension will be highly efficient, the remainder of the house will also be refurbished and improved. As it’s been stripped back to the bare bones, with even the ground floor being dug up due to some subsidence, the project presents itself as a perfect opportunity to carry out a deep retrofit. The existing walls and ground floor will be insulated, and windows replaced to bring the whole house up to a standard we need to be aiming for nationally.

Extension and refurbishment represent the best time to retrofit. The comfort and performance of this house will last for many years to come. Talk to us as specialist architects if you’d like to do the same.

18 May 2022

Site progress update! Our new build house in Oxford continues. The timber frame wall panels, with door and window openings already in place, arrived on the back of a lorry and were craned in before manually being installed. The building was pre-designed on the computer in 3D to ensure that all panels fitted together perfectly like a piece of flat pack furniture…that was the theory at least. While some elements needed tweaking, at least the timber construction made this fairly easy.

The wall panels are constructed using 140 x 38mm timber studs with OSB external sheathing and a reflective thermo breather membrane to the outside, hence the shiny space age look. Between the studs, the frame supplier offers PIR rigid insulation as standard, but we opted for a mineral wool instead for various reasons – the softer material fits more snugly between the studs to minimise gaps, is non-combustible, water repellent, resistant to rot, and has a lower embodied energy.

There are many decisions to be made on the journey of a building project both at design and construction stages. Talk to us if you’re looking for an architect to guide you through the process.