The use of timber cladding in protected areas – 5 case studies for Architects
Timber cladding is a material well known for its versatility, durability, sustainability and adaptability to its natural surroundings. The environment may be used as a palette to select timber species, figuring, and weathering pattern to blend cladding seamlessly into the setting. However, there remain rare circumstances, such as within protected areas, where specifying timber cladding can be challenged by conservation legislation and planning permission. In this blog, we unpack the intricacies of this issue whilst making our case for the specification of timber in protected areas, supported by 5 meticulously designed and beautiful case studies.
Protected areas, planning permission and timber cladding suitability
Protected areas are ‘designated’ nature sites and areas of countryside which have registered natural and cultural importance, by organisations such as Forestry and Land Scotland, Natural England and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Restrictions on construction and architecture frequently apply within these areas, specifically within Conservation Areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
In most areas and circumstances, the use of exterior timber cladding does not usually require planning permission due to Permitted Development Rights (the rights to make minor adjustments to a property without applying for planning permission). However, the specification of timber cladding in protected areas, as well as the extensive use of cladding even in more urban areas, could require planning permission. The level of protection and consequent limitations on architecture and construction vary depending on the local council and environment, but are most heavily restricted in areas which have implemented an Article 4 Direction; legislation increasing the protection of the character or ‘Heritage Assets’ of an area of acknowledged importance.
Protected area case studies
For the purposes of architectural design, timber is an aesthetically beautiful material with numerous inherent benefits that perform excellently in sensitive, protected areas. The breadth of timber species’ features, including figuring and weathering, allow cladding to not only be implemented in almost any natural environment, but also adjust and assimilate to even the most delicate surroundings over time. Moreover, the durability and stability of timber cladding, further increased through thermal and chemical treatments in products such as Thermopine® make timber an exceptional choice for rural structures which must stand the test of time and climate.
In an increasingly sustainability-focused world, protected areas should be leaders in sustainable building practices. Russwood’s timber cladding is FSC® and PEFC™ certified, guaranteeing responsible management of source forests and meticulous control of chain of custody from forest through to the final product. Our timber products are renewable, reusable, biodegradable and contain minimal embodied energy, representing an undeniably sustainable building material. Further, for properties within the UK, Scotlarch® offers a locally sourced Scottish Larch timber for exterior cladding; grown, felled and produced in the UK.
To support our case for the use of timber cladding in protected areas, featured below are five protected area case studies which utilise timber cladding within Conservation Areas, National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Article 4 Direction areas and B Listed buildings.
1. Moxon Architects Office – Crathie (Cairngorms National Park) / Moxon Architects
Moxon Architects’ Cairngorms Office represents an ideal first example of balancing modernistic-inclined architecture with a rural environment, meeting both architectural design aspirations and both National Park and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) legislation. Sited in a former quarry, the low-lying building has its roofline parallel to the side slopes of the quarry foundations, humbly sitting within its natural surroundings.
Quarry Studios utilises brushed Thermopine® cladding factory coated with RAL 9005 on the facades and SILA Select® cladding with SiOO:X coating in light grey on the walkway soffits. The building offers a refined visual interplay whilst retaining sensitivity to the green, brown and grey tones of the woodland environment. The project won several awards, including the American Institute of Architects UK Award, Architects Journal Award and Scottish Design Award.
2. Iona Village Hall – Isle of Iona (Article 4 Direction Protected Area) / WT Architecture
The Iona Village Hall, first constructed in 1928, represents a part of the collective memory of the Iona community for just under a century and remains an integral building for the island’s residents. Protected through an Article 4 Direction by Argyll and Bute Council, the Conservation Area of Iona requires sensitivity to the historic context in new architecture. The newly-completed building embodies a decade of planning and fundraising from the Community Trust, utilising Russwood’s Scotlarch® cladding and Express Unfinished Oak floor.
Scotlarch® cladding was specified to instil traditional Scottish design elements to the structure whilst equally providing architectural depth and modernisation. The natural knots and golden tone, which will weather to a silvery grey, is just one of the reasons Scotlarch® was chosen to compliment the many timber clad buildings within the local village. The building won the Edinburgh Architectural Association award for ‘Building of the Year’ in 2021.
3. Monachyle Beag – Balquidder Glen (Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park) / Line Architecture
Monachyle Beag is a hunting lodge constructed on top of a steep mountaintop in the protected area of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. It is a celebration of the tranquillity, panoramic mountain views and beautiful textures of the landscape. This project was met with planning complexities due to a difficult site and conservation legislation, however, pushing through these issues produced an exceptional end result.
As an homage to agricultural buildings, an outer layer clad with Scotlarch® was paired with an exposed galvanized frame to create the effect of a barn. The Scotlarch® was factory coated with SiOO:X Original to retain the Scottish timber’s frequent knots and natural durability whilst producing a uniformly weathered finish. Finally, with the addition of a moss roof, the result is a building which is beautiful, sustainable and sensitive to its protected area environment.
4. Turf House – Isle of Skye (Conservation Area) / Rural Design
The Turf House on the northernmost tip of the Isle of Skye is one of the only modern buildings constructed on the island in recent years and assimilates into its protected surroundings perfectly. The low-sitting, well insulated, aerodynamically shaped, and unobtrusive building covers a modest 90 m2, and has been minimally elevated so as to not intrude on the line of the sea. The project faced difficulties with planning due to being within a very remote conservation area, but resulted in an outstandingly unique building.
Scotlarch® cladding was selected due its environmental benefits and inherently organic aesthetics. Further, the decision to leave the timber to naturally weather has led the building to weather in coordination with the surrounding Skye coastline to a muted grey. Orientated facing north to the sea, the naturally weathered building now fades effortlessly into the protected landscape.
5. Upper Kennerty Mill – Peterculter (B Listed) / Annie Kenyon Architects
Upper Kennerty Mill, a historic former water powered grain mill situated on the banks of the Culter Burn, is a well executed example of sensitively restoring and repurposing a listed building with protected historical importance. The category B listed building has undergone a complete restoration and conversion project transforming the building into a sustainable family home, integrating many of the original features such as the water wheels, lade bridges and water gates.
In order to make the building both sympathetic and architecturally striking, Thermopine® RW104 cladding factory coated black has been utilised, retaining the cladding structure and design of the original 1838 building whilst adding a more polished facade. The combination of darker cladding with the original stone rendered facades of the building creates a truly distinctive structure which blends historical sensitivity with contemporary architecture in a protected area.
Interested in specifying timber? Contact our ALT for information on the use of timber cladding in protected areas and other architectural queries. Russwood provide a number of services to assist architects with the specification of timber cladding, decking, flooring and fixings. We also offer CPD’s on external cladding and Fire Safety. All cladding specifications within this blog can be found on our website.