29th Jun 2020
...and we take a closer look at the ‘under construction’ Hollow Brook Farm Barns - a heart and soul project for StuartBarr CDR Director Chris Noonan.
Q: Can you tell us how 'Barr builds' came about?
Chris: Over the past twenty-five years David, Stuart and I have been instrumental in the build of some truly incredible properties and we have had the chance to work alongside some of the most creative and inspiring professionals in the industry. For all of us, it feels the natural thing to do is to put this accumulated knowledge and understanding of what works into projects of our own.
Q: What was the driver to start taking on in-house projects?
Stuart: It is important to say that these ventures are occasional hand-picked projects which we take on when the timing and the oportunity are absolutely right. I think the desire to pursue this avenue is very much a reflection of our focus on the design-led build. Each Barr build tests us to the limit in terms of our knowledge, expertise and build management. On principle contractor projects we work as part of a wider collaborative team but with these ventures, every element of the build stops with us. Also, importantly, it puts us, as directors, into the shoes of our clients and helps us to understand the build process through their eyes.
Q: Where do you see the Barr builds of the future?
David: We would like our 'Barr builds' to stand out as projects which will never compromise on the finish for profitability, but rather push the boundaries of design and what is possible. Each one will be a flagship piece in our organisational jigsaw, utilising every element of our in-house expertise and which we can proudly put the Barr Group name too.
Q: Chris, the current Barr Build ‘Hollow Brook Farm Barns’ is your project. Could you tell us why and how it came about?
Chris: When we came across Hollow Brook Farm Barns we knew straight away that they were perfect for a Barr build project. Hollow Brook Farm is in a blissfully rural location but still incredibly well connected. The barn conversions themselves held great appeal for me as they offered the ultimate challenge - a completely blank sheet, aside from the huge structural frames, on which we could truly make our mark. The sheer size of the barns meant there was space to take both properties to above and beyond a standard residence, giving the flexibility to add the luxury elements which are not always feasible in the overall scheme.
Q: Which features and elements of Hollow Brook Farm Barns design are you particularly excited about?
Chris: Sustainability has been a key element of Barr builds to date and something which is really important to all three of us. The renewable technologies at Hollow Brook Farm Barns include air-source heat pumps, MVHR systems and of course things like electric car charging points. Barr builds will also stay on point with the latest in home technologies. Hollow Brook Farm Barns, for example, will use the latest Lutron wireless system in a scheme designed by Chris Lewis Lighting.
The timber external cladding is another feature we are really excited about. We took our inspiration from Macdonald Wright Architect's stunning Caring Wood Barn, where the barn externals will be clad in rough sawn ebony-stained boards. By seamlessly covering the roofs and the external walls in the same material we hope to give the impression of single sculptural form whilst keep the overall aesthetic as natural as possible.
Another great finish is the use of reclaimed granite cobbles throughout the hallway of Barn Two and under the canopies for both barns. The biggest challenge with this was to find a way of cutting them down from 200mm thick, so they work with the underfloor heating in the hallway. After testing lots of blades to cut the stone and failing, we managed to source a hydraulic stone splitter that did the trick. Jason Hydraulics supplied the splitter having also supplied one to do the same thing for Malmaison in Oxford where they were aiming to achieve a similar finish.
Q: Which experts have you collaborated with so far to get the design and planning locked down to such a fine level of detail.
Chris: Keith Durham, a single-handed architect at KD design, has been an amazing collaborator throughout the design phase. It was never going to be a conventional process and having worked with Keith on several projects in the past I knew that we would have a good meeting of minds and that he would be able to work together flexibly. I had a clear vision for the design and a detailed specification – which is not the standard way for an architect to begin a project. I needed someone who would be able to listen and interpret, adding their own professional knowledge and experience to the project, to produce the fully specified finished drawings. Planning applications, sub-contractor tenders and finish design could then, of course, be taken in-house.
Due to the sheer scale of the barns the structural build needed to be extremely rigorous. A trusted team of professionals which included structural engineering from long term Barr Group collaborator Chris Cox of Cox Clifford, with steel fabrication and erection in the safe hands of N H Ricketts, efficiently and effectively secured the foundations and frameworks around which everything else would be built
Q: What does this project mean to you personally?
Chris: Having the opportunity to freely express my creative side and getting to this stage in bringing my vision for Hollow brook to life has been an amazing journey. I have poured every ounce of our ambition and drive into Hollow Brook Farm Barns, with the view of producing something truly exceptional. Even though the barns are only at the structural build stage it is already easy to picture the wonderful lifestyle that the finished properties will offer.
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