Low-energy House

Elsie Owusu Architects, Hackney, 2012


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Front elevation 

Morley Von Sternberg     Download Original

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Elsie Owusu Architects and artist Sir Peter Blake designed a super-insulated, rapid assembly, low-energy house based on Passivhaus principles on small, derelict site in Hackney

Elsie Owusu Architects and artist Sir Peter Blake designed this low-energy house in London for private clients Dr Celina Smith and Mr Chris Raine. Contractor Richardson & Peat (R&P) made the house frame at its Bedford factory in six weeks and assembled it on site in three days, then built the interiors. The modernist house is located in a quiet Hackney street.

The sustainability engineer Phil Neve of Aaben Ltd predicts that the house, based on German Passivhaus principles, will have annual space and water heating costs of £150. Super-insulation and airtightness reduces heat transfer through walls, roof and floors, and minimises thermal bridging. Full-height triple-glazed windows provide natural and cross-ventilation through the open-plan ground floor. This house minimises energy use while roof-lights in the ’secret garden’ green roof give natural solar gain. The concept for innovative system of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) was designed by Connisbee consulting engineers and the building engineer was Packman Lucas. R&P’s supporting architect was Mark Ellerby Architects.

Inspired by the Brotherhood of Ruralists, founded by Blake in the 1970s, and the art group’s work on the ideal house in the English landscape – the house is described by Owusu as an “urban arcadia”. Blake was fascinated by the archaeology and social history of the site. He took soil samples from trial pits to his west London studio and made a collage of found objects entitled “Memories of Place”. This, in turn, affected the form of the house. A large glass facsimile of Blake’s work by glass artist Andrew Moor forms the street wall. An enlarged detail of a found object – a Victorian blue-and-white china cup – forms the design for the front door.

Born in Ghana, Owusu is working with R&P and Aaben to adapt the system and Passivhaus for houses and schools in tropical Africa. She sees the project as an example of how UK architects, artists, engineers and contractors can lead the world in building sustainable construction and contribute to alleviating poverty in Africa.


  • Begun: Oct 2011
  • Completed: May 2012
  • Floor area: 65m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £230,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: May 2011
  • Procurement: Intermediate Form of Contract
  • CO2 Emissions: 17kg/m2/year
  • Address: 60 Aden Grove, Hackney, N16 9NJ, United Kingdom

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