“…a brave experiment by two pioneers….”

Kevin McCloud, Grand Designs Ipswich on The Arc

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The Arc is an individually designed Suffolk home that featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs Ipswich programme in October 2010

The Arc’is located near the village of Boxford. The home is designed by Dr Jerry Harrall using passive solar design techniques and also benefits from; solar hot water (2.4KW) solar electricity (4KWpeak, £1,500/year Feed-in Tariff) and rainwater harvesting (3,000Litres): it was featured on Channel Four’s Grand Designs Ipswich.


Click here to see the full programme

Owner Jonathan Belsey said:

“I gave Jerry a very open brief, but stressed that I wanted the home to be as ecologically sustainable as possible, yet suitable for family life. This he achieved in bundles.”

The Arc was designed to accommodate two families coming together.
The heart of the home is accommodated in an open plan living and kitchen area, where the family gather. Most of the rooms face south and open on to the courtyard which is also served from the kitchen.

The Arc is designed as a high thermal mass building (1.19 MJ/K) to reduce heating load requirements. Dense (recycled) concrete blocks (7Nmm²) and a polished insitu concrete oversite provide the thermal mass. A super-insulated layer under the slab and outside the walls help retain stored heat in the fabric. Tempered internal air temperatures are sustained winter and summer by virtue of the combination of concrete and insulation.

92% recycled aluminium in the roof cladding material was a deliberate choice on the part of the owner, Dr Belsey. Extended eaves and barges have been a noticeable benefit to the family in offering shade and reducing glare. Over a period of nine years since the house was completed, outside temperatures have ranged from -13oC to 34oC yet the building has remained comfortable and usable throughout with an average internal air temperature of around 23 degrees centigrade.

Of the environmental responsible specifying, Dr Belsey says,


The whole project was about what we could do to have less of an environmental impact while also creating the home that we wanted – and I do feel we got the balance just about right.”

Grand Designs Kevin McCloud rounds up most episodes expressing reservations regarding the featured building. He’s often quoted as saying,

‘The very best kind of self-build project is one that laughs in the face of failure and pours scorn on the safe and the prudent…’ 

Uncharacteristically, the parting words from Kevin McCloud on The Arc were upbeat, well almost,

“It’s a brave experiment by two pioneers who dared to risk everything to venture into unchartered territory… Long live their kind of self-builder.’ Phew. Thank goodness for that.”