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WWII airbase transformed into energy-efficient farmhouse


June 18, 2013

Allies Farm by Timber Design

Allies Farm by Timber Design

Image Gallery (20 images)

The appropriately-named Allies Farm in Essex UK was formerly the airbase and shelter at RAF Ridgewell, from where the US Air Force's 381st Bombardment Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses on 296 bombing runs during World War II. Following a conversion masterminded by Cameron Scott of Timber Design, the shelter is now a timber-clad farmhouse, home to the Grays and their three children.

Though surrounded by farmland, the area has always been without a farmhouse proper, though the airbase was apparently adapted to this use following the war. In a sense, then, this conversion is a logical progression.

Though the choice of timber is traditional, it has been combined with a steel tension rod structural system to mitigate some of the limitations of building with the material, allowing the designers and clients to agree the house's layout without restriction. This incorporates an enclosed central courtyard where the children can play outdoors.

Thermal efficiency was a high priority from the outset, and thermal modeling was carried out to optimize the design. The orientation of the windows, the design of the eaves and the construction of the floor were all modified as a result of this analysis. Double and triple glazing has been fitted to maximize thermal efficiency, and it is claimed that Allies Farm will come close to Passivhaus performance.

The building is fitted with a ground source heat pump, a 40 kW photovoltaic array, a solar thermal system and biomass system as sources of energy.

Though Douglas Fir has been used in the structure, timber and timber-derived products have been used extensively, including in the building's insulation, floors and, obviously, its exterior cladding.

Though the Grays were striving for a farmhouse feel to the place, the building retains something of the airbase – particularly with the former tower, which is now the children's bedroom.

Completed last year, the project won both Best Timber Frame Home and Best Interiors awards at the Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2012. Claudia Gray did the interior design.

You can get a sense of the extent of the work, and the before and after, in the video below.

Sources: Timber Design, Rationel

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

40KW solar system holy smokes. Thats alot of juice for just a family home, they could probably be doing just fine with 6-8kw. Alot of people get 2-4kw and have some other source aswell.

I have a commercial operation thats 40kw and it gives me a good income. I wonder what their powering with that much, or if they are planning on selling power back to the grid.

Amazing home though, as they say in the video it really does suit the property. I like how it has a court yard and is a big house with 5 rooms, really perfect for a big family, im sure those kids will really enjoy growing up on that property.

Has some cool history to, they are lucky home/property owners.


Oh my, I'd move in tomorrow.

Craig Jennings

A working farm use a fair amount of electricity. Also using electric heat even a system as efficient as a ground source heat pump really eats the wattage.


I bet the kids love that huge view from the old tower! With that many KW, they should get a return from the power company, that or be completely of-grid to avoid hassles.

The Skud
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