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Private residence, Surrey, UK

rjha Ltd

'The Copper Building' is an atypical house extension in Surrey. A private commission, the project brief was to provide extended living accommodation in the form of a kitchen/dining space, whilst also adding a downstairs shower and utility. The brief also required us to remodel a sloping garden that is raised above the level of the house. A simple brief - with bold and impressive results.

Working inside the constraints of a tight budget, we set out to create something different. Whilst the form and flow of the extension is largely an expression of the spatial requirement, the appearance is a clash of traditional materials used in a contemporary way.

The architecture is a simple, Cartesian masonry form, framed in standing seam milled copper cladding. Due to the nature of copper, the façade will change over time from bright milled orange, to a subtle green. This changing aesthetic is set against the timeless locally sourced, reclaimed stock brickwork. The result is a sustainable, durable and beautiful building.

Sat behind the copper parapet, a minimal framed roof light allows light into the deeper elements of the plan.

The extension faces onto a sloping garden, so we used this profile to create an enclosed/retained courtyard. Tapering the raised land, we formed a series of oak horizontal batten clad planters, slowly reducing in height, to bring the upper garden down to the level of the main house and extension.

The layout was obvious to us from the outset with the utility and shower space being tucked into the darker areas of the plan, whilst the living space is afforded the views onto the garden and majority of the natural light.

The materials were generally A rated materials where feasible. The copper will increase in value over time and always be recyclable; the stock brickwork was locally sourced in Windsor to minimise its carbon mileage.

The planning process was simple and the local authority accepted the copper cladding from the outset.

The programme stretched out for more than a year. This was because the main contractor had to be released from the JCT MW contract for incorrectly laying too few loops to the underfloor heating. This resulted in the stone floor finish being taken up/discarded and the underfloor heating being replaced by a second contractor.

Inclusive design:
The open plan living space allows free flowing access to the ground floor. The low level threshold to the Bi-folding doors allows step free access into the garden.

The ground floor shower room will have benefits for future disability access issues to the first floor, should they arise. The scheme creates a more inclusive solution to the Lifetime Homes conundrum.

Using copper to clad and frame the façade, ultimately giving the project its soul, added circa 4% to the overall £90,000 contract value. A small cost considering the quality of the built form.

"To say we were delighted with the finished result is an understatement. The use of copper has transformed the house and created an impact that we wouldn't have believed possible" - Karen Ripley, Client.



Private ownership
Completion date: 
United Kingdom


Type of building: 
Copper used: 


Name, office: 
rjha Ltd

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