Fife Architects Iron Mill Bay House

Low-energy builds are still challenging enough to make them an exciting prospect, especially when teamed with a creative design brief and an incredible coastal build site. Iron Mill Bay a family home, built in Charlestown near Dunfermline, Scotland, definitely fits the bill.

The site, located on the Firth of Forth and near the remains of the Iron Mill Foundry on the Lyne Burn, provided designers Fife Architects with the opportunity to create something truly special, that celebrates the local area’s industrial history in a uniquely modern way.

Iron Mill Bay House external view

The Brief: Modern Industrial on the Scottish Coast

The house design specifies a two-storey five-bedroom family home, with a total floor area of 220 square metres. For the clients, it was important that the home be both sustainable and energy-efficient, with minimal environmental impact. A combination of renewable technologies including a rainwater harvesting system and an air source heat pump along with the use of reclaimed building materials, ensure that these goals are achieved.

Lucy Beltran, a partner at Fife Architects and the lead architect on the project, explains how ARCHICAD simplified this part of the project: ‘The site was complex and challenging in itself and the surveyors needed to complete a detailed site survey before we could start our designs’.

The design is also informed by local history and previous usage of the land and surrounding area. In the middle of the site sits the derelict former foundry cottage, and to the south-east the view is dominated by a disused railway line. The industrial history of the area lent itself naturally to the build concept, which itself has strong industrial leanings.

Iron Mill Bay House 3D view

Both the design and the external build materials have that industrial influence. The home’s profile brings to mind the ubiquitous saw-tooth factory roofs, and the rusted steel cladding that covers the home gives it a distinctly industrial, yet modern vibe, while paying homage to the site’s historical relevance to the iron industry. The factory-style windows and gallery landing, along with the cylindrical sandstone stair tower, complement the theme perfectly.

Iron Mill Bay: A Complex Industrial Site, in a Rural Setting

From the very start of the project, it was clear that this site would present plenty of challenges. Thanks to the site’s long record of industrial use, its rural setting, and its historic nature, the Fife Architects designers were working with both unique opportunities and unusual limitations.

The build site offers some spectacular views across the Firth, and is adjacent to both a disused railway line, and extensive woodlands, which are home to the derelict remains of a former steel foundry. The foundry dates back to 1795, when it was used for smelting lime and pig iron, for the manufacture of anchors, and a range of items destined for shipping both locally and around the world.

Iron Mill Bay House Interior

For Fife Architects, the first task was to complete a comprehensive site survey, before translating the survey data into a usable format. One of the features Fife Architects love about ARCHICAD is the ability to create a 3D point model from a topographical survey of the site. With ARCHICAD’s mesh tool, it’s very straightforward to take the surveyor’s data and model the site to automatically create a 3D mesh.

How ARCHICAD Facilitated the Design Process

Once the survey was completed, and the data was used to create the initial 3D mesh, the team was then able to develop some initial designs for the build. With the use of ARCHICAD, the team could quickly develop versions in both two and three dimensions. This is an integral part of the process, particularly for such a unique and specific design, as the ability to quickly create design concepts means it’s that much easier to help clients visualise the build, and enable them to approve concepts or suggest alterations.

Lucy Beltran says, “With the option to view a 3D model early on in the design process, it really helps both architects and the client to visualise the design. This meant we could work through a number of iterations and versions to analyse the different options. For example, before opting for the distinctive, jagged saw-tooth roof, we’d designed the building with a flat roof, but it didn’t seem industrial enough.”

The team even used ARCHICAD to make physical 3D models as well as computer-generated models. To do this, they printed ARCHICAD elevations onto cardboard, cut them out, and put them together. Using ARCHICAD they were able to showcase the designs in three different ways, to give the client as much information as possible. And finally, they used BIMx to give the client a virtual reality walkthrough using an iPad and a 3D-viewer.

Iron Mill Bay House Sections

ARCHICAD is an essential member of the team

Using ARCHICAD, we create a schematic design with the planning, design and detailed drawings all contained in the model. In addition, it’s very quick and easy to make changes. For example, on this project the team needed to edit the roof shape and levels of insulation and could achieve that with a few clicks.

Beltran states ‘it just wouldn’t be possible to revert to life without ARCHICAD. We can’t imagine not having the software now and we certainly wouldn’t go back to our old ways of working.’

ARCHICAD also facilitates collaboration with other contractors in the design and build team. Throughout the Iron Mill Bay House project, Fife Architects worked with a full design team including a mechanical engineer, structural engineer and quantity surveyor.

At the end of this collaborative design process, the Iron Mill Bay project received full planning permission in June 2016, and construction was under way by October 2017, with completion expected this autumn. Fife Architects is already an award-winning studio, so it will certainly be interesting to see if this build helps the studio garner any more accolades.