Grand prize for eco-friendly Coldingham family home

IT’S not every day your home wins a top award from a popular TV programme but that’s exactly what happened to Jim Lucas and Jennifer Mole last month when their Coldingham property was named Grand Design’s house of the year.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 5th June 2011, 7:29 am

A team from the Channel 4 show, which regularly attracts millions of viewers, visited Berwickshire a couple of months ago after they received word about the breathtaking and eco-friendly design of the house but both Jim and Jennifer said they were stunned, firstly to have made the shortlist and be invited to London for a glittering awards ceremony, and then to actually win the accolade.

Speaking to ‘Berwickshire Life’, as the news was just beginning to sink in, Jim said: “We’re completely shocked; we knew building the house was going to be a different and interesting project and not at all like anything in Berwickshire but the award came right out of the blue.

“We got in touch with Grand Designs after we’d received planning permission for the house and they said to get back in touch with them once we’d finished building work.

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“So we did but I think we were one of 800 entrants so we never expected to win, especially when we saw some of the amazing places we were up against!”

Jim, originally from Lincolnshire has a degree in property from Herriot Watt University and it was during his time on campus that he met Jennifer, originally from Auchencrow.

And having both grew up in rural areas the couple agreed it was a natural decision to move to Berwickshire, a region blessed with plenty of aesthetically pleasing countryside and fantastic views.

Co-ordinating their move from their then home in London, Jim and Jennifer looked at a number of potential properties they could convert into their dream house but quickly realised that the only way they could really achieve their aspirations would be to start from scratch.

Jim continued: “To begin with we were very much thinking of moving up here and settling in a traditional house. But Jen is very eco-conscious and after we looked at how much it would cost us to convert somewhere to our satisfaction we decided to build a completely new home.”

Before beginning work on the ambitious project, Jim and Jen first had to demolish the 1970s bungalow which sat on the south facing site and then it was full steam ahead.

The end result is a futuristic but family friendly house that not only won the Grand Designs team over, but left me mightily impressed when I called in last week.

As well as a bright and airy open plan kitchen and living room area, the house has five spacious bedrooms and its very own tennis courts, which play host to an after school tennis club.

But what Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud was most impressed with was the fact that Jim and Jennifer had made their new family home so environmentally friendly without compromising its aesthetics, saying: “it shows that eco-homes don’t have to conform on style .”

“He couldn’t believe how glamorous we’d been able to make the house taking into account we wanted to make it super efficient,” Jennifer said.

“It took around two years to plan and get permission and 14 months to build. We worked alongside Brighton-based architect Tony Lucas (no relation!) who we’d previously worked with on an extension to another house.

“One of the best and most environmentally friendly things about the house is that it is heated by the people inside it. It’s a ‘passiv haus’ to use the German term; it’s super insulated and works on a heat exchange. The cold fresh air is swapped with the hot stale air from inside.

“We also have a number of solar panels and a tank that collects rain water, meaning that we get lots of free hot water as we generate more than we use.

“And although they’re a dying breed in modern houses we’ve got one of the simplest ways of saving energy - a pantry which we’ve got in a purposely uninsulated part of the house.

Jen said one of the top priorities for her and Jim when designing their home was to make sure it was suitable for all the family and had a really warm atmosphere, meaning there are some particularly fun features for their two daughters to enjoy.

“As sustainable as we wanted to make the house it was always our intention to do things in a family friendly way,” she continued. “I didn’t want to have a dining room and a posh sitting room that were only used on special occasions.

“I wanted it to be somewhere that the children would enjoy as young children and teenagers. I think their favourite part is the slide we’ve got going down the staircase and the colour changing LEDs in the bathroom”

And Jim and Jennifer’s oldest daughter Indie added: “I love living here; there’s lots of fun things to do - the slide is really good.”

The family’s amazing home is due to be featured in this month’s issue of Grand Designs magazine and is likely to feature in a forthcoming episode of ‘Grand Designs’ when it returns to our screens.