In Pictures: Architect-designed Passive House in west of Ireland
In the hamlet of Portdrine in Co Clare, just 15 minutes’ drive from Limerick city, a sleekly designed house sits behind large electric double gates. Long and low and very elegant, the four bedroom property, built almost from scratch in 2014/5, is also highly energy efficient -it carries a BER rating of A2, but is built to an EnerPHit Passive House standard that means low energy costs and high air quality.
“If we’d had a renewable source of energy this would have got an A1,” says the vendor, “and you could still stick on a solar panel to make it A1, there is plenty of space and tanks for hot water. But we thought A2 was enough.”
‘Carrig’ wasn’t always like this. In its previous incarnation, it was a traditional Irish bungalow blessed with wonderful views over the fields to the Shannon estuary. It was south facing and set on a slight slope – all of which were big pluses for the vendor, who was relocating to Limerick from the UK.
He bought the property in 2013 and lived there for a year before making any changes. “That helped a lot,” he says now, “in just thinking through how a design would work.”
The vendor grew up in Northern California where ”ranch houses” are the norm and had that design in the back of his mind when he was re-imagining the design of the house.
Then, he bumped into the architect James Corbett at Open House Limerick, the annual event where various public and residential buildings throw their doors open to allow interested punters to mosey around. Corbett had retrofitted a bungalow that was on show and the vendor liked what he saw.
Eventually, the original house was demolished except for part of the front wall and rebuilt at a cost of roughly €2,500 per sqm. Now, ‘Carrig’ has a long central block that contains the kitchen/dining/living area and a wing at each end that comprises three double bedrooms, an en suite and a family bathroom at one end, and a guest wing at the other.
From the outside, ‘Carrig’ seems a house with two distinct personalities. The north-facing front has long narrow windows with a zinc-clad porch to the left-hand side, while the rear of the house has floor-to-ceiling triple-glazed windows all along the open-plan living space and adjoining rooms, taking full advantage of solar gain – and those views.
Inside, the design is streamlined. All the floors are laid in Italian porcelain tiles with underfloor heating that is zoned. The architectural detailing is top notch – with shadow gap skirting and a clever groove at picture rail height that allows the vendor’s art collection to be hung without hammering in nails. The sanitary ware is by Laufen with Hansgrohe rain showers fed by a pressurised water system.
One door slides back to give access to the patio – “in summer, it is open pretty much all the time”. Surrounded on three sides, it faces south and is paved in Kilkenny limestone. A larch clad soffit overhangs the kitchen to regulate solar gain.
The high ceiling in the open plan kitchen/living space is vaulted and the contemporary units are handle-less and by SieMatic, with Miele fridge, dishwasher, oven and induction hob.
And then there’s the island. “It’s not an island,” laughs the vendor, “more of a kitchen continent.” With a Qooker hot top, and Corian worktop, it’s sure to warm the heart of any enthusiastic cook. As will the walk-in pantry and large utility room with sink, washing machine, dryer and freezer. There is also a boot and coat-rack in the back hall and access out to the rear garden.
Outside, a separate store room offers space to stash bikes, garden tools and other essentials. Side gate access leads to the gravelled front where there is room for three or four cars to park.
‘Carrig’ is in mint condition and will no doubt appeal to a family or couple working in nearby Limerick. There is a choice of good primary and secondary schools such as Salesians, Ardscoil Rís and Villiers. Shannon Airport is 17km away.
Agent: Michael Roberts (061) 400 499
Viewing: By appointment
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