Burnham Green

Client: Private

Location: East Hertfordshire

Project: Demolition of pig shed and replacement with family home.

Planning Consultant: Quod
Main Contractor: Hayter Builders
Structural Engineer: Andrew Firebrace Partnership

Status: Completed 2021


An agricultural barn on a rural site in greenbelt on the edge of a village.


Working closely with Quod, we were briefed with designing a new, sustainable and energy-efficient family home.


The challenges on this project were all at the planning stage. The agricultural site sits in greenbelt and the volume of the existing barn was not sufficient to meet our clients’ brief of a four-bedroom home with good sized accommodation.

After an initial rejection from the local planning authority, an appeal was upheld for a residential single-storey replacement volume. This was a hard fought for decision which established a potential residential use on the site; however, a single-storey building of the same volume as the barn was not sufficient for the family’s needs.

The subsequent planning application, for a two-storey home, was refused but the appeal was, again, upheld.

During the construction stage, the site was closely scrutinised with several unwarranted visits to site from the Council’s planning enforcement department.


We had to think radically. How could we make a single-storey planning permission into a large family home? One option was to construct a basement, but we considered this to be an unsatisfactory solution due to the lack of natural light and the cost of a basement construction.

The solution was to still dig down, but instead of a basement, to create a dry moat with the bedroom accommodation below the original ground level. This was a far easier and cost-effective way of creating good, light-filled accommodation.

The building above-ground was still no larger than the original barn, but as the visitor drew closer to the new home, the true size of the building showed itself.

The strategy gave us opportunities to create a dramatic bridge entrance, spanning the moat, and a large cutaway to the west; the latter device giving extraordinary views down the valley from the living areas and connecting staircase.

The staircase, with its openness to the west, connected the two sides of the house and, with the large expanses of glass surrounding this new courtyard, made a successful visual link.

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