Award-winning bungalow offers fuel-free living

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
October 2012

Eco-architect Jerry Harrall had long aspired to live the green dream in an earth-sheltered home that would afford him the benefits of fuel-free living.

With that in mind, he designed a groundbreaking property in 1996 and was delighted when he found the perfect location: a paddock in his home town of Long Sutton. It was ten years ago that Dr Harrall, his wife Kay and their three children moved into the Work Life Project at 87 Gedney Road – a naturally heated, lit and ventilated four-bedroom bungalow, which to many passersby looks like a grassy knoll setback from the roadside, thanks to the way the rear wall and roof are earth bunded.

Set on a one-acre site, the super-insulated property has extensive grounds including mature Mediterranean gardens, an eating terrace, copse, woodland area, lawns and vegetable garden, while inside it boasts open plan living centred around a circular living room.

Despite confessing he will miss his unique home, Dr Harrall has put the property on the market, saying the decision to sell the award-winning bungalow will enable him to realise his next ambition: the creation of an Unheated House on a development just across the road.

Dr Harrall, managing director of SEArch Architects (Sustainable Ecological Architecture), which is dedicated to championing green living, said: “My family has enjoyed ten years of living in a home built to the highest specification, with a constant temperature, very little need to use supplementary heating and where natural light sparkles in every room, creating a warm positive ambience.

“The building has performed admirably; the heating required has proved to be eighty per cent less than a conventional builder’s box – it’s far healthier as well.

“I shall be extremely sad to leave here, after all I have some very fond memories of the place. The Bishop of Lincoln married Kay and myself here and our family has grown up here.”

The Work Life Project is one of the UK’s most energy efficient homes – it was named RICS Sustainable Building of the Year 2005 and has won numerous other national and international accolades. Its south-facing design provides a tranquil living environment, while year-round natural warmth emanates throughout the entire building.

Dr Harrall explained the building has been orientated south so as to maximise the solar gain which assists all the heating, lighting and ventilation, and in turn means no mechanical systems are required.

He added: “All the glazing is on the south side too, in order to retain the heat from the sun. The property is built from heavy mass building matierials – concrete blocks, concrete and plaster – and in this way the walls, floor and roof act as storage radiators.

“The heat is re-radiated back into the property at times when the temperature outside is lower than inside. There are also exceptionally high levels of insulation enveloping the building outside, while the soil provides an additional buffer to cold temperatures.”

At the time of its development the dwelling was hailed as revolutionary by the building industry and has heavily influenced later green designs. For Dr Harrall himself, it was an experiment in combining living, working and food-production all on the same site. His subsequent research and findings from living in the bungalow have formed part of his PhD. The unusual property has also been the subject of extensive media coverage and between 1999 and 2006 more than 6,500 visitors passed through its doors, culminating with 1,200 in just one day in September 2006, as part of Lincolnshire Heritage Day.

The spacious accommodation covers 185 square metres and includes an entrance lobby and hall, utility room and four bedrooms. Limestone tiled floors feature throughout the main living area, which is centred around a circular lounge, measuring five metres in diameter. The kitchen/diner is fitted with stone worktops and double-glazed doors opening onto the terrace, where the patio fans around the two.

The master bedroom boasts both an en suite and walk-in dressing room, with fully fitted his and hers storage cupboards. Outside the landscaped grounds back onto open fields, enclosed by established hedging. There is also an orchard, wetland area, swings, compost bays and a fully serviced tool shed, store room and separate office/study. Other features of the property include a gym, separate study, office, workshop, petanque pitch, basketball court and music studio.

Through SEArch Architects Dr Harrall and his team develop fossil-free buildings, which boast significantly decreased energy bills and in some cases none at all, while massively reducing their carbon output. The company has an impressive portfolio of energy-saving projects both nationally and locally, including social housing scheme Unity Gardens and the Canebuzo (Carbon Neutral Business Zone) – second generation earth-sheltered offices which make up the UK’s first business campus of this type, both in Long Sutton.

By selling the Work Life Project Dr Harrall hopes to fund his next scheme mortgage free and in turn take his dream of carbon-free living one step further. He is moving his family across the road to the site of a commercial eco development of seven offices. The new home will maintain a 22 degree temperature all year round with no direct or back up heating and its C-shape design – with its opened end facing south – will all be enclosed by a bank and will have a revolutionary heat-storing floor.

Dr Harrall hopes Long Sutton’s location – close to Spalding, King’s Lynn and the beautful Norfolk coastline as well as its prime position on the commuter route to London – will add to the Gedney Road property’s appeal for potential buyers, adding: “Living here has been a dream. The interior rooms are all protected from the outside influences; first thing in the morning we need to open the curtains to see what the weather is like – there’s no clue as to the weather conditions, it’s so quiet and snug. I shall be sorry to leave – it really is a truly serene interior environment while outside is a magical oasis.”

* 87 Gedney Road, Long Sutton, is for sale through estate agents C Carters, of Wisbech, and Ashington Page, of Beaconsfield, priced £340,000.

A second two-bedroom property on the same site at 89 Gedney Road, of similar design is also for sale. Set in its own 0.25 acres, it comes complete with its own garden and car parking and can be bought in a package with 89 Gedney Road for £470,000.

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