Progress at Strawbale house in Southampton


It’s all starting to take shape at The Piggery – a large, single storey strawbale house near Southampton that we’re working on with StrawWorks.

The I-joist roof is on the first quarter of the house, allowing the straw bale walls to be built in this part, and this photo gives a great view through the clients’ master bedroom door, through what will be the glazed gable towards the sky and trees.

We’ve purposely offset the ridge line of the roofs to improve solar gains into the various rooms and better frame the views towards the clients’ woodland.

More pictures to follow as work progresses…


Happy New Year!

Another year, another construction detail…

Yes, we’ve already been back at work for a week now but have only just started to implement the New year’s resolution to keep the WordPress, Facebook and Twitter feeds updated regularly, so you can look forward to lots more updates on thoughtfully-designed, ecologically-sound projects!

Sadly it’s been a very tragic start to the year, with the death of renowned Scottish architect Gareth Hoskins announced earlier today. Despite only being 48 Gareth had managed to build up a highly successful, internationally-respected practice. He will continue to be an inspiration to many architects for a long time to come.

We used one of Gareth Hoskins Architects’ projects – Duncan House, in Fife – as a precedent for our new house project in Southampton, which is currently in for planning. Fingers crossed…

At the end of last year we also finished off the alterations and refurbishment of part of a semi-detached villa in Edinburgh, which looks great. We should have photos soon, which we’ll post here.

This year we look forward to a wide variety of projects being developed or going on site including a new house outside Dunfermline, conversion of former Post Office and a new house in a Conservation Area on the edge of Edinburgh.

In other news the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit (MEARU) have been back at the Land, Sea & Islands Centre, which we helped refurbish last year, to carry out ‘post-refurbishment monitoring’. This will complement the same monitoring that they carried out before the refurb took place and allow the improvements to the thermal performance of the building to accurately quantified.

One of the most exciting things we’ve found out so far is that through careful workmanship the airtightness (or draughtiness) has been improved from a VERY draughty 18m3/hr.m2@50Pa to 2.7m3/hr.m2@50Pa – an 85% reduction! Not only will this help to reduce the running costs for Arisaig Community Trust (who own and run the building); it will ensure that volunteers and visitors enjoy being in the building even more and help to encourage its’ use for all sorts of events.

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(Land, Sea & Islands Centre)

We’re also getting really excited about the 2016 Festival of Architecture, innovation and Design (especially the architecture bit)…watch this space!

Lastly (and those geeks amongst you will love this) we were pleased to hear last week that Historic Scotland’s ‘Technical Paper 15’ has now been published. You can find this and other really useful information on older buildings here.

OK, I know: it’s not bedtime reading (or perhaps it is if you’re an insomniac) but if you live in an old house with brick or stone walls and want to make sure that you insulate it properly without causing a massive risk of condensation then this 225-page tome is going to have some useful stuff in it.

We’re working on lots of refurbishment projects that involve older buildings so we’ll be digesting this over the next couple of months. If you’re interested in this drop us a line!

Oh, and before we forget – THANK YOU to everyone who helped us raise  the inspiring sum of £718 for Movember!!!

Office update

Two months since the last post! That’s awful (Muriel)…

Lots happening here at Sam Foster Architects:

Staff – in an effort to properly manage the practice’s slowly increasing workload, James Daw is now a permanent member of staff and has been flexing his eco-refurb muscles on some of our retrofit projects

Architectural Technologist, James Daw

Architectural Technologist, James Daw

Our feasibility study on the Black Isle for Culbokie Community Trust, (led by Urban Animation, with Aigas Associates and Athena Solutions) concluded at the beginning of January. After lots of hard work and some very vocal community meetings the community voted in favour of bidding for the purchase of a piece of land for community use – hooray! Next stop: Scottish Land Fund…

With the same team we’ve also just been appointed to carry out a feasibility study for the community-led redevelopment of Lochmaddy Hospital, on North Uist, which closed 15 years ago. Possible uses include student accommodation, business units and a campsite but we suspect that there are a lot more things we can do on the 8.6 acre site – which includes a 1.5 acre loch. Watch this space!

Construction-wise, work on the refurbishment of the Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig has now started and we’re delighted to say that local firm Knoydart Construction have made a great start. We’ll post some pictures after the site visit this week. MEARU have now completed their pre-refurb testing of the building fabric, which we’ll report on in due course too…

…and we’re soon to start work on a refurbishment project at Midmar Gardens, Edinburgh. This project involves remodelling and the internal insulation of a sandstone outshot to the rear of the main house. Following WUFI calcs we’re using rigid wood fibre insulation and lime plaster to reduce heat loss – without the risk of interstitial condensation that can occur when over-insulating old stone buildings.

Planning permission for Arisaig project


Possibly the biggest change to the middle of this small, west-Highland village for over a decade and not a single objection!

Following a good deal of community consultation and the development of initial design options and then a preferred design, we are delighted to offer our congratulations to Arisaig Community Trust for securing planning permission for the extension of their Land, Sea & Islands Centre building.

In the meantime tenders are being secured for the refurbishment of the existing building to vastly improve its energy efficiency. Thanks to a grant from Climate Challenge Fund this will take place between January and March 2015, and will involve the fitting of additional insulation, draught proofing, new windows, new heating and new lighting.

MEARU (the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit, at Glasgow School of Art) have carried out ‘pre-refurbishment’ monitoring of the building, including u-value testing, airtightness testing, thermographic surveys and energy use. (The existing building managed an impressively leaky airtightness value (Q50) of 18m3/hr/m2 @ 50Pa, which goes some way to explaining the £2,000+ per year energy bills just to keep the chill off!)

Once the refurbishment is complete we plan to carry out ‘post-refurbishment’ monitoring to accurate determine the improvements to the building fabric. This is especially interesting as the building was refurbished and insulated in 2000, so our project is technically a refurb of a refurb…and there’s a big market for those.

Land, Sea & Islands Centre – design update

A few weeks ago we took up presentation boards showing two options for how the Land, Sea & Islands Centre – a heritage and local information hub in the west coast village of Arisaig – could be refurbished and extended.

After receiving lots of useful feedback on the ideas (click here to view) we’ve prepared a single design that incorporates as many of these comments as possible, and the presentation board for this is now on view in the Centre until 11th July. As before we’re looking for as much constructive feedback as possible before then so that the design can be tweaked before a planning application is submitted.

There’s no substitute for seeing the boards in person, but if you’re unable to do this please do visit Arisaig Community Trust’s website, where you can download a PDF of the board. Alternatively click here.


Project in the news


Thanks to Kirsty Maguire for sending on this link to the Press & journal’s coverage of the Land, Sea & Islands Centre project, which we’re working on at the moment: Following public consultation and feedback on initial design options (click here to view comments) we’re developing a single design in more detail, which will be on display in the Centre from 20th June for two weeks.

Get along for a look and comment if you can!

Land, Sea & Islands Centre, Arisaig – Design options


After our last post (Update from the New Row – 14th May) we’ve spent the last fortnight putting together design ideas for the refurbishment and extension to Arisaig’s Land, Sea & Islands Centre building. These are on public display in the building itself for the next two weeks so if you’re in Arisaig go and have a look and tell us what you think!

As well as illustrating what is possible the display also includes a description, sketches and diagrams to show how the current building isn’t providing the facilities the village has said they need.

There’s no substitute for seeing the display in person as it makes it much easier to compare the ideas we’ve put forward, but if you can’t make it along please click on the link below to view a PDF copy of the boards (which is around 7Mb.):

140523 Initial Options LR

If you have any comments please write them down (if you’re viewing in person) or email them to arisaigct[at] (replacing [at] with @).


The more we know what you think the better we’ll be able to develop the designs, so please have a look and have your say!

Update from the New Row


After setting up this WordPress blog back in 2011 I was advised to update it regularly so that existing and potential clients can see how busy we are. Ahhh, the irony…

We’ve been so busy that we simply haven’t had time to add updates on what we’ve been working on! Safe to say that things here on the New Row are ticking along nicely: current projects are progressing well and we’ve had a wee flurry of enquiries and new projects.

Perhaps the most exciting recent news is that we’ve been appointed by Arisaig Community Trust (ACT) to prepare designs and submit planning and warrant applications for the refurbishment of their ‘Land, Sea & Islands Centre’ – a heritage and tourist information facility in the middle of the village.

This is a wonderful project that will involve preparing design options for the village (and visitors to the village) to comment on before we refine the ideas into something firm and submit planning and building warrant applications. The driver for this is the recent news that ACT have been awarded a spectacular £162,000 to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions in the village through the implementation of three projects (click here) – the refurbishment and extension of the centre being the main component. ACT’s WordPress blog will have more details shortly…

As well as winning this project we’ve also been appointed by Caledonia Log Homes in the Borders to provide design and energy efficiency advice for a project in the northern Highlands, and we’re off to Southampton this week to discuss a new private house project.

Alas very few projects around Dunfermline but we’re not really complaining about lack of work…!