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SSDA Awards

Commendation – Red Bridge House, Crowborough

crowborough1jul14This new build family house, set in an area of woodland in East Sussex, was only made possible through the extensive use of steel.

Architect: Smerin Architects
Structural Engineer: Lyons O’Neill Structural Engineers
Steelwork Contractor: Southern Fabrications (Sussex) Ltd
Client: Richard and Emma Hannay
Red Bridge House is a three level steel framed residence occupying a hillside setting and offering views over the surrounding countryside.

The house’s main living spaces occupy the middle floor and lead out on to a veranda hung from and sheltered by an overhanging steel framed roof. The top floor accommodates four bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the lowest level contains a 12m x 3m swimming pool.

“The structural steelwork frame allows the upper floors to float effortlessly over the hillside, while a series of stainless steel hanging rods define the external veranda wrapping around the house,” says Piers Smerin of Smerin Architects.

crowborough3jul14crowborough2jul14“The use of steelwork contributed to the client’s desire to build a house that was architecturally distinguished and environmentally sustainable.”

All of the steelwork structure was pared back to the minimum during the design process and this allowed the maximum amount of insulation to be incorporated into the external fabric of the house, while keeping the depth of its exposed edges to the minimum to add elegance to the drama of the suspended upper floors.

A weathering steel plate bridge leads to the front door. It is set into a steel clad elevation whose oxidised surface echoes the autumnal hue of the surrounding trees.

As well as being completely recyclable, the steelwork frame has been designed so that each floor is a single structural volume. This will allow the interior of the house to be rearranged to suit future requirements, as any number of room arrangements will be possible.

Similarly, the external cladding and glazing can be removed and replaced or the openings reconfigured without affecting the structural integrity of the overall house.

Steelwork has also enabled the 15m clear span to be achieved over the swimming pool in the lowest level, while providing floor-to-ceiling openings to the upper floors on the same elevation.

This was achieved by designing part of the steel frame as a two-storey Vierendeel truss. A hanging veranda was also formed using a series of stainless steel tension rods, supported from high level steel beams cantilevering over the truss.

“An efficient design was necessary and the 36t steel frame had to be fabricated in transportable, manageable elements to aid erection,” says Tony Male, Southern Fabrications (Sussex) Managing Director. “This was particularly important as the site is set in ancient woodland with very limited site access and the need for on site welding needed to be minimised.”

The use of structural steelwork for this project was also crucial in delivering many of the job’s key drivers in a way that no other material could. Steelwork’s advantages in detailed analysis, its ability to transfer load, its ease of connecting, versatility, aesthetics, and speed of erection were all fully utilised to help create the client’s unique house.

Judges’ Comment

A striking modern house, built on the footprint of its predecessor. This led to a design with a balcony and circulation area thrusting forward of the original building line. The simple, but effective, steel framing incorporates a cantilever steel beam structure, with tension rods carrying the forward perimeter, coping with complex deflections.

Much of the cladding, and the access bridge, are in weathering steel. So this is an active testament to steel in many forms.

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