High Fold Farm Eco Renovation And Extension: Kentmere Lake District National Park

High Fold is a former Westmorland farmhouse with 2 barns standing in Green Quarter. Our project creates a near carbon neutral future for the buildings and a positive demonstration of sustainable development in the Lake District National Park.

We firmly believe that retaining architectural character and achieving carbon neutral status are not mutually exclusive. We also believe that high quality architectural design using sympathetic, robust materials with more contemporary forms, and paying full respect to and complementing existing architectural and regional character are not mutually exclusive. Our aim was to make a nearly carbon neutral home and workplace in a way, which respects and enhances the original, integrating appropriate strategies & technologies.

A fundamental part of what we wanted to achieve was to restore a sense of harmony, balance and integrity to the whole, whilst making a beautiful family home in which to bring up our young family and run our architecture business from. Just as the original buildings would have reflected the lives, values and work of the people who lived and worked in them and their relationship with their environment, so we wished to do the same.

High Fold Farm Eco Renovation
eco build with solar panels
eco house design interior

Working from home, we contribute to the economic activity in the valley and avoid the common scenario of living in a valley such as Kentmere and then commuting by car to Kendal or further to work and back 5 days a week. Perhaps more significantly we have been ‘relighting the fire’ of a family home which has been a holiday cottage or a second home for some time and previously  contributed virtually nothing to the social or economic make up of the valley. Equally, reconnecting our working lives with a working building such as the barn conversion – has brought purpose and a future to what was otherwise ‘just a pretty face’ with no real use. 

Kitchen/dining/living/sun space:

We have ‘opened up’ the west elevation with a green oak framed glazed passive solar sun space, using highly insulated ‘intelligent’ ‘non reflective’ glass which  offers significant solar gain to the property throughout the year as well as providing a link with the garden and view beyond.

Annex Studio Barn:

A former barn / pig sty has been converted to our design studio, and has been organized to retain the key qualities of the barn at first floor level and the publicly visible sides at the ground floor level. We brought more daylight into the barn in order to create an even distribution of light, to make it a viable place to draw/work. For the west and north elevations which are not visible from the road we have introducing glazing in natural weathered green oak which has a sympathetic robust design, tone and scale. We felt this was more appropriate and respectful than forming any new openings in the stonework of the main barn. We have also included conservation roof lights to the lean to roof facing the private back garden.

Carbon Neutral Environmental Design Statement:

A lack of innovation and commitment to bring the fabric of our existing buildings in line with current building regulation standards and beyond over many years has contributed to the exceptionally poor environmental standards of our traditional housing stock, particularly in areas such as the Lake District where their exceptional beauty and the fact that they are an intrinsic part of what the Lake District is and stands for.  As a result we have justified the relentless outpouring of pollution to simply make these buildings inhabitable in the name of conservation often without any serious commitment to finding better solutions and fully exploring the possibilities now available to us. High Fold is no exception to this – like most of our old buildings it fell far short of a responsible level of insulation and ventilation and as a result was dependent on large amounts of fossil fuels being pumped into it year in and year out to make it habitable. It had uninsulated walls, areas of rising damp, dark rooms that needed electric lights on during the daylight hours and like most of its neighbours, looked pretty but was actually a wolf in lambs clothing, when it comes to being an environmental polluter and large emitter of carbon. With careful consideration, experience, innovative technology and sensitive design we the house and barns have reached a point in their life when an eco renovation and extension has ensured their viability as a beautiful family home and place of work with nearly zero carbon pollution and no compromise to their visual integrity.

The eco renovation and extension of the existing house and conversion of the adjacent annex barn into a home working design studio, along with the introduction of sustainable renewable technologies to allow Highfold to become what we believe may be the first nearly zero CO2 / carbon neutral home and work place in the Lake District National Park. The aim of this project was to refurbish the existing property and bring it into new use to enable it to be self reliant in terms of its energy use with on site production of its own electrical supply & space heating, provide its own hot and cold drinking water supply, and to biologically process its own human waste streams back to the natural landscape. Much of the effort in achieving this vision is not visible, such as insulation and thermal mass, but the incorporation of a passive solar pre heat buffer space and all the renewable technologies was necessary to achieve the desired result.

eco extension
passive house desigm in Kentmere Lake District National Park
passivhaus extensio

Existing Building Fabric.

We internally insulated the existing structure without visually changing continuity of the existing rough cast render and natural stone walling. The existing solid stone, cold and damp walls where internally lined with insulation to provide warmth retention and thermal mass. Existing drip courses, gable bargeboards and purlin ends were retained for visual continuity. The existing ground floors were lifted, insulated and provided with under floor heating powered from the thermal store, which is heated by the solar hot water panels and the biomass boiler. The ceilings where insulated with 300 mm of Earthwool recycled insulation providing a warm ‘hat’ to the buildings. The original single glazed windows were replaced with 1.1 U value, Low E, argon filled double glazed energy efficient, traditionally detailed conservation sash and case Accoya timber windows. Cold bridging was designed out as far as possible and the house and barns were internally plastered and all component junctions draft sealed to improve thermal performance. A woodstove provides key top up heating to the main living room.

The internal layout of the house was adjusted to provide improved solar gain from traditional double fronted south facing ground floor windows and to provide an air lock draft lobby to the new main northeast entrance. The annex home studio barn internal layout was adapted to retain the open plan barn-ness of the existing structure and retain visual continuity externally. Adjustments to the existing buildings traditional vernacular appearance were enhanced and new interventions have been restricted to the private garden west elevation.

New Building Fabric.

The existing house was enlarged with a large passive solar preheat solar sunspace. The naturally weathered, robustly detailed green oak framed extension structure performs three key functions, firstly, to provide a natural day lit internal gardening space for a keen gardener to propagate seeds to produce home grown food, and perhaps more importantly to provide an integrated passive solar sun space to preheat incoming outside air and allow the sun’s latent heat to be invested and stored in the internal thermal mass masonry walls of the pre heat sun space which, can be slowly released later. Thirdly this extension space reduces the exposed surface area of the core of the house to the outside cold temperatures to allow the steady state internal temperature to be more easily achieved with out additional space heating.

Zero Co2 Solar Hot Water.

One the largest consumers of energy within any house are the heating of hot water to service domestic hot water requirements for the kitchen and bathrooms. As part of the sustainable development two wall mounted solar thermal collectors where fitted to the south facing barn gable to provide hot water to a thermal store.

Zero Co2 Biomass-Fuel Heating System

One the largest consumers of energy within any house is the heating of hot water to service the heating system. The well-insulated building fabric with internal thermal mass has reduced heat losses to a minimum creating considerable thermal inertia. A conventional central heating boiler run off fossil fuels was not used; an innovative wood pellet biomass boiler located in the roadside barn was used. The clean burning biomass boiler invests hot water in to a large thermal store. Hot water is drawn off via a under ground district heating pipe to provide hot water to the under floor heating in the annex studio barn and house. An efficient 4 kW Scandinavian space heating wood burning stove fuelled from local timbers harvested from the sites woodland will provide a social focus to the living room and will complement the background heat provided by the main pellet boiler and the heat gains from the occupants and house appliances.

Zero Co2 Site Generated Renewable Energy Electrical Supply.

Generating site derived renewable electricity is difficult on sensitive sites such as this within a National Park. Our first port of call for generating renewable electricity would normally be a domestic wind turbine but we opted for and roof mounted solar photovoltaic panels to the south facing barn roof.

Low Energy Appliances.

All appliances have been carefully considered to eliminate unnecessary electrical demand and to optimize the efficiency of the required essential items, cooker, fridge, low energy lighting etc. All selected components are category A* rated for maximum efficiency and minimal electrical draw when in use. Excess electricity produced from the on site renewables systems which cannot be used directly will be dumped into the hot water thermal store to run in parallel with the hot water coil heated by the solar hot water panels, further surplus is supplied to the grid.

Kentmere Lake District National Park
first passive house in the Lake District National Park
eco house design

Local Spring Water & Water Saving Devices.

All potable water is be provided by the existing spring water supply, holding tank, Liff cartridge filters and UN sterilizer system. All domestic house hold water outlets have been selected to be as water efficient as feasible with aerated sink / basin taps, aerated shower heads and flow restrictors fitted to washing machines.

Household / Human Waste Streams.

All black and grey water is gravity fed to the existing settlement septic tank on the site connected to the existing back to land leach field drainage system wet land system. Kitchen wastes and garden debris material are composted until dry and inert and returned to the land as a valuable non-toxic fertilizer.

Healthy-Internal Environment.

Scatter rugs over waxed timber floors, organic non volatile solvent paints, avoidance of formaldehyde and other toxic equivalents combined with natural materials and a natural Passivent ventilation lead to a healthy internal air quality. 


This is a flagship project for Eco Arc Chartered Architects, (Ecological Architecture Practice) The Lake District National Park and the wider community. With a low environmental footprint High Fold provides a modest vision of how to marry the needs of existing traditional vernacular building conservation with strict environmental standards. A mixture of traditional and 21st century renewable technologies being used to light heat and power the existing house and barns. We have adopted a holistic approach at High Fold making sure that all elements of the occupation of site through to the waste left behind, have green credentials.