Off-grid in the highlands

Miles from the nearest amenities in Trentham and 800 metres above sea level, this 38 hectare Newbury site was conceived as an off-grid hideaway.

With no connections to services, everything needed to be “on board”. The house had to perform better than anything we’d ever attempted, so it was carefully oriented in sympathy with the land form and passive solar principles. Michael remembers his lecturer for Environmentally Sustainable Design once saying, “if you respond to the brief then the design will take care of itself,” and that’s definitely the case here.

Pronks Track Aerial 1024x683, Michael Ellis Architects
Aerial view.

A large overhang protects the double-glazed living spaces to the north, while the house is almost shut off from the west to minimise heat gain.

The electricity is generated from wind and solar, and water is collected off the roof in two large tanks.

Though the house had to be designed to be as energy efficient as possible, this isn’t too obvious to the eye. There is an aesthetic balance to the design – we wanted Newbury to feel more like a home than a machine for conserving energy.

It’s been nearly 20 years since it was commissioned, and while there have been significant advances in sustainable technologies like solar batteries and wind turbines, we think the house lives up to the planning and design standards current today. And we know that it’s worked as a serene rural oasis for its occupants.