Ashraya is an innovative and highly sustainable house tucked away in the hills of rural Hertfordshire. Set in the countryside and surrounded by nature, this family home was designed by architects Kirkland Fraser Moor and managed by Husker Limited. Located in The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the house was considerately constructed to be aesthetically pleasing, whilst being minimally visible from the road and neighbouring properties. The home is nestled low into the ground and is sheltered by a grass covered arch, allowing the building to blend seamlessly and respectfully into its surroundings.
The 510m² residence is low carbon with a fully glazed facade. Doors open out onto courtyards on both sides, which are encompassed by the historic flint wall of the walled garden that sits adjacent to the new property. The discreet exterior conceals a home which spans across three levels and has been built according to Paragraph 80 of the National Planning Policy Framework which allows ‘construction of stand-alone rural houses if the design is of exceptional quality’.
Taylor Maxwell worked with cast stone manufacturer Vobster Architectural to design and supply wet cast stone to the development. The wet cast stone was expertly installed by trusted partner Henley Stone.
Vobster Architectural first became involved in the project in 2017, when they were approached by architects Kirkland Fraser Moor with their concept drawings and initial ideas. After subsequent meetings, wet cast Portland stone was selected as it gave the same desired appearance as natural stone, but with many added benefits, such as being able to produce much larger pieces and to cast-in reinforcement and fixing brackets. Natural stone was not suitable as it would have been unable to support the weight of the masonry above or cope with the desired spans that the architect was trying to achieve. Wet cast stone provided the perfect solution as it is a highly durable and strong product. When tested to the relevant British Standard, Vobster Architectural’s wet cast stone exceeds several requirements. In particular, compressive strength results can be up to 200% higher than the requirement, with measurements in excess of 50 MPa. Due to the strength of the product, no additional support was required which brought significant construction and economic benefits.
During the design stage, using the landscape became an important and integral part of the building’s concept. Therefore, materials from the site were incorporated into the build, along with a curved roof. The curve of the building allows the surrounding landscape to run up and over the roof, meaning the home effortlessly blends into the countryside. It also continues the tradition of ‘form follows the environment’, without imitating styles of the past, making it truly unique.
The use of cast stone allowed for a quick installation time on site due to all of the pieces being precast at the Vobster Architectural factory. This also meant that there was very little wastage of the product during onsite construction as all of the units were made to exacting dimensions and requirements. The house boasts further eco credentials, with a ground source heat pump which uses predicted weather, external temperature and humidity to determine how much or little to warm the space.
After five years in the making, Ashraya was completed in 2021 and is now an expansive and contemporary home. The sunken ground level is open-plan and contains the homes living areas under an exposed timber roof. Downstairs, a basement level features a studio, snooker room and den, which can be playfully reached by a slide. The true meaning of Ashraya is ‘shelter of peace’, something that the homeowner believes their new home has become.
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