Low Carbon Adaptation of Agricultural Buildings in West Dorset

Heritage Declares signatory and volunteer, James Verner, has designed the adaptation of two unused, adjacent agricultural barns on a farmstead in West Dorset for reuse as a single residential dwelling with office space and a space for social gatherings.

The original arrangement comprised two buildings: a mixed use barn with a threshing floor, stable and granary that had its origins in the early 19th century and a modern, open fronted agricultural building, attached at right angles to the historic barn.

Though the 19th century building is not considered to be of any heritage value by the Local Planning Authority, the scheme sought to enhance the heritage significance of the historic barn both through conservation repair as well as replacement of the extensive and damaging use of mass concrete and cement repairs with limecrete and lime mortar. 

The aim of the project was to provide a viable use for two redundant agricultural buildings with the minimum embodied and operational carbon emissions.

Though demolition of the modern agricultural building and its replacement with a new structure would have been more financially economical, it was decided to retain as much fabric as possible in order to conserve the carbon already embodied within it.

A sustainable materials palette, respecting the traditional constructional techniques of the historic barn, was proposed to reduce embodied emissions including the use of wood fibre insulation and timber from local sources to sequester and store carbon in the buildings for as long as they are in use; any steel, brick or masonry was to be from reclaimed sources. A limecrete floor was specified to be finished with polished earth from the locality.

The design allowed intrusive services to be housed in the modern barn. A ground source heat pump, exploiting the excavation required for drainage runs,  was chosen to provide space heating and hot water not only for the adapted buildings but the farmhouse as well, weaning the farmstead off its need for an oil fuelled boiler.

The project is due for completion in autumn 2022: accurate records, available from the contractor’s accounting system, are being used to record carbon emissions embodied in the adaptation which, combined with projected operational emissions, will be used to calculate cumulative emissions over a defined reference study period.

To find out more about the project, email signatory James Verner.

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