Kingston - two new build houses

Two new residential new builds by Harvey Norman Architects, Cambridge

two SUSTAINABLE, contemporary and innovative self build homes, one a four bed barn style home with a detached garage plus a second three storey five bedroom house with cinema room and self contained space above linked garage.

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Main Street, Caldecotte - new build house

An innovative, contemporary, black timber clad barn inspired five bed family home with separate double garage for private clients. The new house is set on a semi-wooded, 1.9 acre site, 15 miles to the west of Cambridge, midway down the northern slope of and with stunning view over the rolling open countryside of the Bourn Valley.

The new building will hunker down approximately 0.5 meters into the ground, on the footprint of the existing two combined cottages, to minimise the impact on existing trees and wildlife .

The orientation of the building allows the proposal to open its south and west elevations to the sun and the garden while keeping its eastern and north elevations protected from the elements. To reinforce this idea, the eastern elevation, fronting Main Street will have minimal glazing in an irregular pattern of a few small windows in order to be consistent with traditional barn style design. The south and western private elevation to the rear will be much more open in terms of glazing.

The building has been planned, by Harvey Norman Architects to optimise a passive design approach. This is to be achieved in part by optimising room sizes and layout with service areas to the east and habitable spaces to the west to make the most of the orientation for both solar gain, natural daylights and views out.

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Cottenham - new build house

A residential new build by Harvey Norman Architects Cambridge

To create a contemporary, low cost and sustainable, cheap to run, three bed home for a young couple in the rear garden of their parent’s house.

From the late 19th century the economy of Cottenham was dominated by the growing of fruit for the Chivers Jam factory in Cambridge and also flowers in many small-scale agricultural farm holdings located within the boundary of the village.

As a result, Cottenham was characterised by long plots of up to 300m backing onto open countryside. Farmhouses lined the street resulting in little space at the front of plots, with access to hard standing and yards traditionally to the side and behind. Agricultural outbuildings ran along the edge of plots, many of which follow the original farmstead boundaries with other buildings set at 90 degrees.

Since the 1960s, and the closure of Chivers, there has been a significant shift away from land-based, local work, the vast majority of the working population now being employed outside the village.

The photo below shows how the site would have looked in the 1960s.


Our design response was to use this old agricultural historic fabric and local aesthetic reinterpreting it as a contemporary barn style building using the traditional materials such as black weatherboarding and black corrugated roofing in a modern manner so that the new building read as a converted outbuilding able to be glimpsed by passers-by through gaps between the old farmhouses lining the high street.


The south facing two storey building itself (114m2 / 1227 sq ft of internal space) achieves an open plan kitchen and living area with a two storey void over and aspect to front, side and sliding full height doors overlooking large garden and decking, three bedrooms and family bathroom, ground floor WC and study.

The simple rectangular compact timber frame design, but from simple readily available materials has the advantage that it is a simple, quick and cheap build.

Investing in the fabric

Rather relying on technology to generate heat, which can go wrong, needs maintenance and becomes outdated quickly, to save energy and keep running costs down a “fabric first” approach was taken to be achieved through insulation, good windows, airtightness and optimised design to capture passively as much of the sun’s heat as possible.

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Swavesey - residential barn conversion

A residential barn conversion by Harvey Norman Architects Cambridge

The residential conversion has been designed to work around and with the existing timber frame structure. The single storey open rear storage barn is being replaced with a new build two storey element which echoes and reinterprets the form and mass of the original structure. It also takes full advantage of the south facing views of open countryside. The design concept is further reinforced by the use of a contemporary interpretation of the original brick, metal and black timber weatherboarding.

The planning process for the Swavesey barn conversion

This project was about the bringing together of expertise in planning and architecture to ensure that a viable use was found for a now redundant agricultural building. The old agricultural building clearly needed to be developed. Since no viable commercial use was found for the building, it has been pleasing to be involved in a project that found a quality residential use for the building that complemented existing surrounding buildings so well and also significantly enhanced the clients’ asset value.
— Jim Bryant, Bryant Land & Property

The project presented a number of challenges that involved three teams of experts — Harvey Norman Architects, PlanSurv and Bryant Land & Property. It was decided that the prior approval route for the conversion of agricultural buildings, allowed under Class Q of the General Permitted Development Order was too restrictive. In order to support an application for full planning permission is was necessary to demonstrate that other alternative uses were not feasible. This was achieved through a 12 month marketing campaign run by Bryant Land & Property. Following this process the submitted application included a significant element of new build which utilised the footprint of an existing steel portal framed building. The council agreed this rationalised the site and made an attractive rural residence without compromising the farmyard character.

PlanSurv is delighted to have been able to help secure planning permission for the residential conversion and extension of this historic farm building; thereby ensuring its long term future and maintaining the contribution it makes to the local landscape.
— Michael Hendry, Director, PlanSurv


The group of agricultural buildings are some 80 meters from the road, overlooking open fields and a small brook to the south.  Other buildings in the group, but not part of the proposals are a detached 19th Century stock brick farm house and a single storey metal open sided range of storage buildings providing cover to open brick storage pens. The building to be converted is a traditional black weatherboard clad timber frame barn on a brick plinth with corrugated cladding to the roof. To the side is a single storey brick barn with the same roof and to the rear a 20th century metal open sided storage barn with a barrel vaulted portal frame with corrugated metal clad roof.

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