Fibre cement enthusiasts Neil Sutherland Architects have used profiled sheeting from Marley Eternit to create an award-winning “modern agricultural aesthetic” in a self-build house in Scotland.

The Inverness-based practice specified Marley Eternit profiled sheeting, which was originally designed for agricultural buildings, for four main reasons – its low embodied energy, affordability, vapour permeability and aesthetics.

It has been used in Gunmetal Grey and complemented by distinctive cranked crown ridges on the roof of the single-storey 80m² house built with timber frame and untreated larch-clad walls on six acres of ex-forestry land near the Highland city.

Details such as these won the practice a detailing award from Inverness Architectural Association and a commendation in the Scottish Design Awards 2008.

The owners, Glen Onwin and Eileen Lawrence, artists who lecture at Edinburgh College of Art, required a low-impact, open plan home designed for flexible living with essentially one bedroom but three bathrooms to allow for expansion, that mimicked the original farm building on the site which was a simple block building with a corrugated roof.

Glen, who was one of the artists involved in creating the much celebrated An Turas ferry shelter in Tiree, which won the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s Best Building in Scotland Award 2003, said: ““We liked the idea of using basic materials and originally thought about using a turf roof but we decided to go for the agricultural roof with the curve. We discovered that we couldn’t create the roof profile that we wanted using pre-existing structures so the curved ridges had to be made especially. It was an important agricultural aesthetic that we wanted preserved.”

The asymmetrical curve to the roof also affords a subtle added volume to the minimalist interiors, which, like the exteriors, echo the simple rustic aesthetic. It is also echoed in the curves of many of the interior furnishings. Eileen has even coined the term “Agrimin” to describe the building’s less-is-more approach in combining the local agricultural shed tradition with minimalism.

A wood-burning Rayburn is the primary heat source of the house which has underfloor heating throughout and along with solar collectors in the roof, links into a thermal store which regulates the water.

Neil Sutherland Architects, who have used Marley Eternit profiled sheeting on many previous homes and whose construction arm - MAKAR Ltd - built the £125,000 property, aim to produce good contemporary architecture which is both fit for purpose and challenging while sustainable, healthy, fully integrated with the landscape and appropriate to its context.

Architect Sarah Johnston said: “We specified the Marley Eternit sheeting because of its low embodied energy in manufacture, its affordability and ability to absorb moisture which avoids the condensation issues typical of metal corrugated roofs, and its aesthetics in relation to surrounding agricultural buildings. It combines with the timber to create modern agricultural aesthetic. The clients, who were involved at every stage of the design and build, which took place over the best part of a year, are delighted with the overall aesthetic.

“Also on cost and aesthetics, the profiled sheeting product has a contemporary sharp look and being less expensive than equivalents such as slate, allows the developer to reallocate budget costs to increasing thermal performance - with more insulation or higher performance windows for example.

“We are now confident this roofing material is suitable for further domestic projects having successfully detailed the integration of elements such as velux roof lights, solar collectors and standard chimney flue sections.

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