Thornton Road, Manchester United Kingdom

Thornton Road is a typical byelaw terrace house that lies in Fallowfield, a suburb three miles south of Manchester. Opening out directly onto the front garden and street, the relatively sober facade is articulated by red brick, terracotta decorative features and small window openings that express a clear distinction between a controlled interior environment and the exterior space from which it is isolated.Within, a long and thin footprint featuring two floors of two rooms each, with the entrance hall and stairs to one side. To the rear lies a yard or garden not directly accessed from the public street.

The client – a happily single man – wanted a remodelling concept for his "home for the future". A home that looked to nature, specifically the sun, to not only reduce or eliminate his consumption of fossil fuels for heating and lighting but also to answer his deep desire for a contemporary urban life that is "more satisfying sensually, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually".

To achieve this, Walls Can Be More divided the remodelling process into four distinct phases that took their inspiration from historic and modern Japanese techniques with an emphasis on nature and fluidity. The first was Kyokai: the precise configuration of openings to benefit from both natural light and heat as well as frame a specific element of a landscape. Second was Wabi: the application of natural materials, colours and textures with an "undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered.

Next was Nihon Teien, the careful arrangement of several natural elements - trees, shrubs, grasses, stones, gravel, water and "borrowed" scenery - directly in front of the openings to create a series of natural paintings which are always changing and expressing the beauty and mystery of nature. The fourth, and most important, was the precise positioning of furnishings and fixtures in front of the natural painting to conjure a series of viewing positions that translate into a sense of peace and comfort to those who experience it. ​​​​​​​

Residential, Remodelling, Private House


Project Budget


Transform A Whole-House

3000.00 GBP

1 Passive Solar Lighting

1.1 Overview
A collection of low-carbon building design concepts that harvest the free energy of the sun in order to permeate and invigorate internal space as well as reduce or eliminate our consumption of environmentally destructive fossil fuels. 

1.2 Toplighting
A south-facing roof with fixed skylight modules provides - throughout the day - natural overhead lighting to the kitchen as well as illumination deep into parts of the house starved of natural light.   

1.3 Sidelighting
A curtain wall system and awning window installed along the east and south façade source light from alternate directions takes best advantage of sunlight at different times of the day as well as enhancing the light quality overall.

1.4 Internal reflectances
The application of a subtle colour range of classic neutral colours: soft white trowel-on coating for the walls and ceiling and silvery grey porcelain brings out the best of the natural light falling through the windows.

1.5 Shading devices
Voile panels that pull back from the south-facing curtain wall offer privacy as well as gently diffuse any overbearing impact of the sun without obscuring natural light filtering in. A “living curtain” of creepers located above the awning window acts as a natural blind as well as generate evocative patterns that alter with the direction and level of the sun.

1.6 Artificial lighting
To maximize the efficiency and quality of the electrical lighting system, technologically based strategies include the selection of energy efficient LED’s that uses up to 90% less energy than traditional sources; luminaires [wall washers and angled spotlights] that use the walls and ceilings as large reflectors that generate a mood of expansiveness and dimmable lighting controls.

2 Passive Solar Heating

2.1 Overview
In simple terms, passive solar heating is a low carbon building concept in which windows, walls and floors are utilised to collect, store, reflect and distribute solar gain – natural heating provided by the sun – in order to heat the home in winter and thus reduce or eliminate the consumption of environmentally destructive fossil fuels.

2.2 Direct gain
During the heating season [i.e. winter] the same south-facing curtain wall, roof glazing and window that provides the interior with natural overhead and side lighting also collect solar energy in the form of heat.

2.3 Thermal storage
The application of high mass materials: cast-in-place concrete floor slab and ceramic tiles for the floor and trowel-on plaster over masonry walls near the south-facing glazing allows for the sun’s energy to be absorbed and released throughout the evening and night.

2.4 Heating technologies
The kitchen floor comprises of a cast-in-place concrete floor slab, 20mm heating insulation board and a underfloor floor heating and uncoupling membrane to creats an efficient yet aesthetically pleasing heating solution. 

3 Building Fabric

3.1 Overview
The “fabric first” approach is a low carbon building design solution that maximises the thermal performance of the homes components – windows, walls, floors and ceilings – in order to reduce the loss of natural heating provided by the sun and thus reduce our dependence on environmentally destructive fossil fuels.

3.2 External
The solid timber and aluminium curtain wall façade and roof glazing system as well as the windows and doors meet the highest requirements for passive house standards: the world’s leading standard in energy efficient construction.

3.3 Internal
The south-façade of solid brick comprises of 50mm thermal laminate plasterboard finished with a soft-white trowel on plaster coating and a precise 12.5mm shadow gap [where applicable]. The floor comprises of a cast-in-place concrete floor slab, 20mm heating insulation board finished with cement effect ceramic tiles. The ceiling comprises a 31.5mm thermal laminate board finished with a soft-white trowel on plaster coating.

4 Biophilic Design

4.1 Overview
that can reduce stress through low

4.2 Visual connection with nature
that can reduce stress through lower blood pressure and heart rate; increase positive emotional functioning, improve concentration and recovery rates as well as improve attitude and overall happiness.

4.3 Non-visual connection with nature
 e.g. herbs and flowers, birdsong, weather, breezes that can accelerate physiological and  psychological restoration, reduce cognitive fatigue and help motivation.

4.4 Thermal and airflow variability
​ i.e. sensory variations in light, sound and temperature can improve concentration.

4.5 Presence of water
e.g. visual access to rainfall and water features can elicit a higher restorative response, improve self esteem and mood as well as reduce stress.

4.6 Dynamic and diffuse light
e.g. direct sunlight, moonlight and starlight can increase productivity, induce positive moods and impact the circadian system functioning.

4.7 Connection with natural systems
i.e. climate and weather patterns, stars and constellations can elicit an experience that is often relaxing, nostalgic, profound or enlightening, and frequently anticipated.

4.8 Material connection with nature
e.g. natural wood grain, stone and natural colours such as green can decrease diastolic blood pressure, increase in pulse rate and decrease in brain activity.
Bringing the outside inside

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