A UK man has built his parents the ultimate gift: a highly sustainable home where they can comfortably live out their lives in one of their favorite places on Earth—and it’s also a house that’s won numerous awards to boot. The loving son is Richard Pender, who began the self-built project, called Shawm, as a master’s student studying renewable energy at Newcastle University. Richard worked in collaboration with Dan Kerr of MawsonKerr Architects to create a beautiful airtight home in rural Northumberland that’s built with Passivhaus principles.
Richard’s retired parents, Tony and Anne Pender, previously resided in a traditional farmhouse but needed a more modern home where they could comfortably age in place. To allow his parents to continue living in the beautiful yet wild landscapes of rural Northumberland, Richard lived and worked onsite to design and build a custom home with minimal environmental impact. Though Richard isn’t an architect, he drew on his experience with conventional property development projects and dedicated three years to research to meet the highest standards of energy efficiency and detailing.
The new Shawm home is located within a former farmyard behind the existing farmhouse. The timber-frame new-build is attached to an existing stone wall and features a traditional barn-like silhouette with a clean and contemporary appearance. Materials were sourced locally, such as the larch cladding from Borders and the bespoke furnishings built from trees felled onsite. Richard also manufactured the entire timber frame with a specially designed jig in an old hay shed.
Since Shawm was built with Passivhaus principles, the low-impact and low-energy home features highly insulated fabric with airtight construction, thus doing away with any need for a space heating system. The house also includes mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, ‘passive’ solar gain through the south, and use of local and low-carbon materials wherever possible. However, because the site on which Shawm is built is oriented to the north, the home was unable to attain Passivhaus certification.
A small biomass pellet boiler provides space heating and domestic hot water in the winter. A solar array powers the house year-round, while rainwater is stored and pumped around the home for non-potable uses. Shawm is also disability friendly and includes ramps, electric blinds, and intercom front door control. The Shawm house won four Regional RIBA Awards, a National RIBA Award, and is long-listed for the RIBA House of the Year 2017.