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Covert House


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  • General Contractor: White Rock Engineering & Construction
  • Structural Engineer: Price & Myers
  • Mechanical Engineer: Max Fordham

Project Status


Year Completed



128 sq. meters
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This project is on the longlist for the RIBA 2016 House of the Year Award.

Project Description


As very busy architects Deborah Saunt and David Hills of DSDHA have had to wait a long time to design their own home – but the wait has been worthwhile. They have used it as a test-bed for their ideas on sustainability. Their experiments – carried out under restrictive Conservation Area planning conditions – resulted in an unorthodox, semi-underground house that challenges what it means to design a contemporary domestic space.

The two-storey house is a simple composition of two interlocked white cubes, which is entirely shielded from street view. The planners limited to a single-storey height so DSDHA had to half bury the house. The exterior presents itself as a low-rise, lightweight architectural piece of architecture, clad in white render, with chamfered mirror reveals. The house also has to follow strict rules to reduce over looking from neighbouring gardens: it has a stepped roof line in section so it is lower close to garden boundaries, from which it is set back clear from on all sides.

Covert House is indeed a case study on the potential for unlocking backland sites and creating architectural opportunities that subtly densify our residential areas and respond to the urban necessity of building more houses close to the city centre. Allowing for more well designed houses to be built in existing private backland sites may also be a way for people to develop the assets they own and live in, while also releasing some of their equity.

This is an exquisitely crafted home, with every detail and material carefully thought through; a beautiful space that is immediately calming and exciting. The exposed in-situ concrete interior gives the project a unique identity; whilst evidently structural it is also delicate, beautifully detailed and finely executed. The mirror façade softens the edges of the building and allows it to sit playfully within the surrounding garden context.

The site strategy is a brilliant response to planning issues, providing a model for sensitive densification, and achieving a very good-looking house.
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