Bruce Cottages is part of a three house development in Freuchie, Fife. Studio Baird Architects gained full planning permission for the development and carried out detailed design/project management for No2 Bruce Cottages.
Project description
The project is a house for a retired woman, who had expressed her desire to create an environmentally sensitive & sustainable building.  Her many interests, which include gardening, botany, dyeing, spinning & weaving natural fibres, have also strongly influenced the design. The house is designed to reflect these and provide her with an inspirational home which will also accommodate her changing requirements as she gets older.

The new house has been formed by altering & extending two small semi-detached 'workers' cottages (which themselves had been previously extended). Two existing bedrooms have been retained and integrated into a large extension which comprises of living, kitchen, dining, study, utility & bathroom accommodation. The remainder of the existing building has also been re-planned to create a larger house at No 1 Bruce Cottages.

A green oak frame was chosen for the principal structure of the building and it is the inherent character of this material - its strength, bulk, weight, workability, jointing etc. which creates both the physical & emotional heart of the project. The oak frame 'frees up' other elements of the building, allowing a non-loadbearing external wall to 'meander' between the frames. The oak frame is revealed from the inside or outside (sometimes both at the same time -when combined with glazing elements), and gives a strong spatial structure and definition to internal spaces. The non-load bearing 'spaced stud' timber frame walls (made from small section timbers), minimise cold bridging, are highly insulated with blown recycled newspaper and are clad in panelvent sheathing to create a 'breathing wall' construction. The walls are clad externally with either home grown larch boarding or vertical reclaimed slates.

The utility room (designed to accommodate the clients dyeing) and chimney are conceived as stand alone elements which are built using hydraulic lime mortar from loadbearing locally reclaimed sandstone. In contrast, a grey, old quarry stone is utilised as a dry stone 'cladding' to the sub-structure blockwork , taking up the gradient of the site and linking to external terracing.

The roof elements are combined to provide a straight-forward contextual link to the existing cottages (duo pitch and reclaimed pan tiles) and a contrasting shallow pitched curving roof (covered with sedum planting), which provides extended sheltered areas below. The utility & sunroom act as 'linking' elements and are clad in reclaimed slate & solar control glazing respectively.  Sheeps wool thermal insulation is used throughout the roof structure. As an acknowledgement of this, a  sheeps horn handle adorns the front door, which itself has been constructed using douglas fir, from a tree removed from the site prior to construction. Internally, organic paint finishes and natural linoleum flooring are used throughout.  

Heating is supplied via a Ground Source Heat Pump system, using two sixty metre deep boreholes to provide temperature gains which are utilised by the Heat Pump to provide hot water for underfloor heating and domestic hot water. Grant assistance from the Scottish Community and Household Renewables Initiative was provided for approximately 30% of the system costs. Rainwater is collected within reclaimed whisky barrels for reuse with the garden.

The extension seeks to reconcile the traditional architectural form of the existing house with a more connective, open and dynamic relationship to the site. This, combined with the use of natural and reclaimed materials, helps to create a building which is both distinctive and harmonious within its surroundings. 

image gallery

* Bruce Cottages photographs - (project page, main image + image gallery 1,2,7,8,9,11,12,13 & 14) copyright Keith Hunter Photography