Wienerberger’s Keymer handmade tiles breathe life into House of the Year 2017 winning project

Caring Wood is an extensive country home project set in 84 acres of scenic Kentish countryside designed by architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell. It is a magnificent country home with the space for three generations of the same family, incorporating formal, communal and private spaces. The project was recently revealed the winner of 2017 RIBA House of the Year in an episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year presented by Kevin McCloud.

The architects faced a challenging brief: to embody the spirit of the English country house in a design which would embrace its context and landscape, while simultaneously providing a carbon neutral response to climate change. Aesthetic ambitions, practical needs and sustainable principles dictated every choice of material and fundamental element, especially the roof.

Their roofing design involved a combination of shapes and angles that demanded a durable and adaptable roof tile product. After an extensive search of comparing suppliers and products, James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell agreed on Keymer. Hand crafting clay tiles since 1588, Keymer is one of the UK’s oldest brands.

The tile the architects chose was the Keymer County Peg Antique for two reasons. Firstly, they liked the natural aesthetic, which is imbued with a distinctive finish and warmth of colour thanks to Keymer’s use of rich Wealdon Clay. And secondly, the design made handling and laying a simple and easy process for contractors. The architects were meticulous in their detailing and planning and so were attracted to Keymer because of their dedicated and flexible service.

During the project, James and Niall had a lot of questions and Keymer was on hand to help. The project team worked hard to ensure that nothing was left to chance – every angle and shape was specificly detailed and modelled in advance. It was a very design-led construction – the architects had a site office and were on hand to fix, help, advise and look at all the different details working closely with the contractor Complete Roofing Contractors. The 153,000 Keymer County Peg Antique tiles added together to create a striking looking roof for the country home. The tiles were gradually delivered throughout each stage of the project and were produced using the traditional handmade techniques over a period of a year.

The finished property boasts exceptional sustainability, with both the main house and cottage achieving an EPC rating of A. By achieving planning consent under PPS7, the design of the house and landscaping were jointly considered to contribute to, protect and enhance the local environment.

Caring Wood’s sustainability is addressed through a low energy design and the use of clean green technologies, but also in the application of regional building form, material choices and detailing. Having created the framework for the house and estate, it will now evolve to suit changing family needs, while the material will maintain their performance and aesthetic integrity.

The design team worked intensively with landscape consultants Spacehub and the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) to develop proposals for farming, landscape and biodiversity on the estate. The existing natural spring at the bottom of the valley provides an opportunity to create a wetland area that will contribute enormously to the biodiversity on site, providing an ideal habitat of clean running water for a huge variety of plants and animals.

Christine Leadbeater, Business Development Manager for Keymer, commented:

‘To be involved in a project like this is a unique, once in a lifetime opportunity. It is very unusual, but we had and still have a great relationship with the architects. One of our strengths at Keymer is project management, it’s what we do very well. Having one reliable main contact was really important. It’s one of the reasons we got to work on a project like this.’

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