Mark's Zero Carbon Eco House

House Tour

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Name: Mark Pellant of Koru Architects, and his son Alexander
Location: Hove, UK
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; owned

Husband and wife architects Mark Pellant and Abi Torr have built a light-filled contemporary family home and studio using natural, sustainable materials and renewable energy sources. Solar panels in the roof and a wood pellet boiler provide heat and light, while an underwater tank harvests rainwater, which supplies the house with water.

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It took the couple three years to secure the site and get planning permission, then another 18 months to complete the building work. Mark and Abi felt passionate about keeping the build as environmentally low impact as possible, so they minimized the use of concrete and instead went for a solid timber construction. The house was designed to be airtight and to maximize natural light, so it needs very little heating. Mark estimates he spends no more than £500 a year on wood pellets which supply the house with all its energy needs, along with the in-built solar panels on the roof.

Mark's wife Abi passed away two years ago, and Mark lives in the house with their five-year old son, Alexander. For a house that embraces the spare minimalism of Japanese design, its interior is surprisingly cozy. The stark white walls and huge sliding glass doors are softened by the warmth of the oak floors and wooden furniture, much of it made by Mark himself. The rooms are full of art, sculpture, pottery and textiles from Africa and Asia, which the couple collected during their years traveling the world together. And although Mark admits to disliking visual clutter, there is a healthy dose of Lego scattered around.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Minimalist. I dislike fussy design and clutter. I have avoided using skirting boards or architraves in the house. I wanted to create a blank canvas, where I could place beautiful objects, a bit like a gallery with white walls and just the right light. I have also used lots of wood and natural materials to give a feeling of warmth. I didn't want it to feel clinical.

Inspiration: I am very influenced by Scandinavian and Japanese philosophies of simple lines and a limited palette of materials. My wife, Abi, and I spent several years traveling, and many of the objects around the house come from places we visited together, especially India and Southeast Asia. We shipped back pieces we liked or got friends to carry them back for us.

Favorite Element: It is a comfortable space to be in: the temperature, the humidity, the quality of light are all just right. There is a visual comfort too. It is calm and not too busy on the eye.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge of the build was deciding which renewable technologies to go with. My other challenge is cleaning, but it has to be done! Alexander is pretty good at following the "one toy out, one toy back" rule.

What Friends Say: "When can we move in!"

Biggest Embarrassment: The sliding oak doors weren't sliding. They kept getting stuck, but I fixed the problem.

Proudest DIY: I am proud that the house turned out the way we planned it. We designed and built a zero carbon family house. I am also very proud of the garden, as I knew very little about gardening. It is lovely in the summer when it is full of flowers.

Biggest Indulgence: I used oak throughout the house, inside and out. I could have used cheaper woods, but it is a good, hard, durable wood, not too dark, not too light, and fairly easy to get hold of either locally in the UK or from France.

Best Advice: If you want to make your house greener, first work on the insulation. Make sure the roof, windows, doors and walls are airtight. Seal up all the gaps and cracks. Only then should you start thinking about the eco bling; the wood pellet boilers and the solar panels and ground source heat pumps.

Dream Sources: Natural Building Technologies. They were a great source of many of the materials for the build.

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Resources of Note:

LIVING ROOM

  • Chaise longue: gift from father-in-law
  • Sofa: designed by Mark and made by The Chair Maker (now called Rume), who liked Mark's design so much, they put it into production as la lune.
  • Sofa cushions: The Chair Maker
  • Floor cushions: made by Abi from fabrics picked up in Sri Lanka
  • Throws: Rajasthan
  • Rug: Tibetan refugee co-operative in Northern India
  • Coffee table: first piece of furniture Mark made. He has plans to dismantle it and make something else from the maple.
  • TV table: made by Mark
  • Floor lamps: made by Mark from tropical hard wood
  • Artwork: Batiks from Indonesia, wall hanging from Burma, wooden carving from Indonesia, polished stone sculpture from Zimbabwe, Buddha from Laos

DINING ROOM

  • Dining table: beech ply, made by Mark
  • Suspended wall unit: made by local cabinet maker Aaron Miller
  • Wall hanging: Rajasthan
  • Framed photographs: taken by Mark on his travels round Asia

KITCHEN

  • Units: oak faced birch ply doors and birch ply carcasses, designed by Mark and built by cabinet maker, Aaron Miller.
  • Worktop: recycled glass and crushed seashells to give the look of concrete without the environmental impact
  • Ceramic floor tiles: Royal Mosa

BATHROOM

  • Tiles: Royal Mosa
  • Bathroom suite: Catalano

BEDROOM

  • Bed: Futon Company
  • Futon: bespoke
  • Wall hanging: Loas
  • Batik: made by Abi in Indonesia

ALEXANDER'S ROOM

STUDIO

  • Maple book shelves: made by Mark
  • Desks: IKEA
  • Chairs: IKEA
  • Plan chest: IKEA
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Thanks, Mark and Alexander!

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(Image credits: Rebecca Bond; Alistair Nicholls)

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