Thorne Wyness Architects

Taigh Seasgair

Taigh Seasgair (Snug House)

West Ardhu - Site plan

This was our entry for the Our Island Home competition, for which we were shortlisted. We are also building a variant of this design for the USCA community association. It is simple affordable housing designed for families. The plan is developed with a 5 person family in mind, placing emphasis on the kitchen and dining space as the heart of family life, and of the home. A strong connection is made between the living spaces, the garden, and the landscape beyond.

West Ardhu - Site plan


The proposal creates a new street following the contour of the landscape, with informal parking allowance for 10 cars. At the end of the road is a turning space, which links to the lane for school bus pick ups.

The House

To maximise living space and in response to the tight budget, formal circulation is kept to a minimum. Built in bedroom storage is omitted, in favour of wardrobe furniture, to make spaces more flexible. Generous, and easily accessible, high level, occasional, and seasonal storage is located above the bedrooms; and a generous utility and laundry space connects directly to the garden. The single storey design is sympathetic to the landscape, and provides easy living for those with small children by making the whole house accessible. This layout also accommodates adults with mobility issues. The North elevation faces the road with views out to the sea, and has smaller windows suited to bedrooms, allowing natural ventilation and letting light through yet minimising heat escape. This elevation is quiet and sheltered from the weather. The south elevation looks through the gardens to the lane and the river, and deciduous trees beyond.

The Garden

The gardens have a shared boundary along a low wooden fence between properties to allow children to interact. A higher fence, adjacent to the utility ‘back’ door, gives more privacy for hanging out washing, and for outdoor dining sheltered from the wind. There are also opportunities for poultry and growing plants or vegetables to the South.

The Lane

The gardens open out on to the lane and the play park, moving the focus away from the road, and allowing a shared safe place for communal play and walking to the school bus.



The construction is economical yet highly insulated. The homes will have more traditional north facing elevations as seen from the road, with large areas of triple glazing to the south, to open from the living areas to the garden and landscape. Cladding is sourced from a vernacular palette of Scottish Larch, corrugated metal, and render.

The design seeks to reduce construction time on site with the use of pre-made cross-laminated-timber panels, externally clad with sheet metal and natural Scottish larch. A mix of cladding materials breaks the buildings down visually, and adds interest to the site whilst responding to the existing vernacular palette. All of the materials used are recyclable. As our office is located in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, we are in a unique position to maintain a high level of close site supervision in order to ensure a smooth delivery of an innovative form of construction for the prototype site at Dervaig.

Construction sequence

The site is excavated and made level to within a set tolerance with a well compacted blinding layer.


The under slab insulation arrives as a prefabricated kit, and slots together on site to form the setting out for the house.


The cross-laminated-timber kit for two houses arrives on site on 2 lorries, an articulated lorry, and an 11m rigid truck with an onboard hiab style crane. The small truck offloads the articulated lorry, which then departs. The small truck is then used to assemble the kit on site. This takes about 2 to 3 days per house.

Kit installed

The windows are installed. The building is taped up for air tightness, then wrapped in insulation, membranes, and cladding. Installation of air tightness tape and insulation is usually pretty hard to get right. In this case, it is easy even for semi-skilled labour or self builders as the junction details are uncomplicated, readily accessible, and easily inspected for mistakes.

Outer layers

Energy Use

Taigh Seasgair was designed using Passive principles, and its energy use calculated using PHPP (appendix available on request). The calculation assumes the BRE climate data for West Scotland, and an orientation of 45° from North. It is important that shading elements are kept as far as possible from the South windows. The energy use is dependant on a pressurisation test result of 0.6h-1.

Heat loss is minimised due to a focus on high insulation levels, modest north glazing, and abundant glazing to the south, making the most of solar gains. Heating is provided by a small multi-fuel stove, or single storage heater in the main living space, along with a HW towel rail in the bathroom.

Hot water is mainly provided by solar thermal panels in the summer, with an electrical back-up in the winter. Pipe runs are minimal as wet services are closely grouped, which reduces heat loss.

The mechanical heat recovery system ensures that cooking smells from the open plan kitchen are minimised,and humidity is controlled throughout the house. At the same time, this system recovers heat from the extract air to ensure nothing is wasted.

Lifetime home

Starter Home

The third smaller bedroom close to the entrance could serve as a home office, or treatment room, as it benefits from proximity and easy access to the public road. Alternatively, remote neighbours can stay over, or relatives can come to visit.

Young Family with 3 children

Small children have a dedicated play area close to parents, with direct access to the garden. The CLT interior is simple and robust, and spaces are easily customisable using curtains or paint.

New baby
Young kids

Family with teens

The play area becomes a computer area, and study, for older children. An extra WC can be accommodated in the Utility room for a higher demand household.

Retired Couple

Extra bedrooms allow family to return to the Island for holidays, and offer the opportunity to provide extra income through B&B, or through home working part-time.