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North Elmfield

Remodeling project

This remodeling project is currently in the late stages of design.  We were originally approached by the owner of a large Semi-detached Victorian to carry out a feasibility study to investigate ways to improve the layout and to increase levels of natural daylight.  Given the complex nature of this project we developed scale models to inform the design and communicate ideas with the client.

Analysis of the problem

The original feature staircase and stairwell was incorporated into the larger adjoining house when the property was split into 2 in around 2005.  The newly created dwelling has recently been extended with a 2 storey extension.  A new straight flight central staircase has been constructed internally.  The new extension is poorly considered, with inner rooms that are unusable, low daylighting levels and a reliance on corridors for circulation.

The Ground floor consists of a large central room in the centre of the property.  This space has no window connection to outside and is and given over to storage.  The Kitchen and Living rooms are poorly connected; much of the Ground Floor consists of corridor space around the perimeter of the central room, contributing to a disjointed feel with no interconnection between the key rooms.

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All original period features have been removed and only the original structure.  The building owners had well established ideas about the layout and how they planned to remodel their home to provide better daylighting, in particular with well-lit circulation area internally. The brief was to provide daylighting internally by way of rooflights, given the house consists of a large square with habitable rooms adjacent to the 3 external walls. 

The property has a large, unused loft space, concealing a beautifully constructed roof void with feature trusses to support the large span of roof.  A central light well would provide an attractive solution to help open up the property into a series of open plan spaces leading off this central feature.  A new staircase was to be relocated in this ‘covered courtyard’ area to make the best use of the void space internally.

First steps were to survey the complete roof structure and provide an accurate working model of the roof to enable an informed discussion and to assess the viability of creating a 3-storey void internally.   The existing roof structure is complex and has been recently extended; load paths needed to be established at the outset and an early technical appraisal was the best approach, to inform early design decisions and viability. 

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Early structural model showing existing structure.

It was important to establish load paths to ensure any future lightwell would not compromise the structural integrity of the house; in particular the complicated roof structure.   This model shows all existing structure, with the lightwell superimposed (transparent blue).  This allowed for detailed discussion with the client and engineer to assess the feasibility of the project..


Study sketch model investigating stairwell options. 

Having established the structural feasibility of the light well we looked to develop the internal layout around a central stair void; removing the internal bathroom was fundamental in providing a central stairwell, but this led to further complications as the reduction in useable space resulted in limited space available for a new bathroom. 

The solution was to re-evaluate the existing layout, making it as efficient as possible.  To do this we omitted corridor space in the recent extension, making the bedrooms larger.  The circulation space was relocated into the central void space.  The resulting layout allowed for a modest bathroom against an external wall, providing natural daylight. 

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How much daylight can we expect?

The original design brief was to bring daylight into the property by remodeling the existing building fabric.  It is important to be aware that 3d rendering software only provides an ‘artists impression’, in the same way a photographer adjusts camera settings and lenses to achieve the required result.  To accurately assess how effective daylighting strategies are in design we use De Luminae modelling software to carry out visual analysis on our models.  The software was used on this project to allow us to assess the efficacy of the scheme and to demonstrate how different roof lighting options would affect the overall performance of the lightwell.

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