One of Ireland’s first eco-homes, a timber five-bed surrounded by forest, on market for €750,000

Built on former quarry, Woodsmoke, in Bandon, was designed as ‘lyrical celebration of life in the woods’

  • Address: Woodsmoke, Castlebernard, Bandon, Co Cork
  • Price: € 750,000
  • Agent: Savills
 

Designed 27 years ago by architect Paul Leech, from Gaia Ecotecture, this lofty, five-bedroom, timber house was one of Ireland’s first eco-homes.

From the apex of the 213sq m (2,300sq ft) A-frame building, to the power-generating elements embedded within and the heat-pump below ground, the house is steeped in sustainability.

It was commissioned by a couple who bought 0.9 hectares (2.25 acres) of woodland on the Castle Bernard Estate in west Cork from Lady Bandon, who had refilled a former quarry there and planted it with trees 50 years previously.

It embodies the concept of Gaia, says Leech: the healing of a wound in the land. The planting was so successful that when he first visited the site: “I practically needed a machete to get through it.”

He walked the land to find how best to place the house, which faces south and involved minimal removal of trees. The shape, which makes the house mainly roof, along with its high windows, allows the structure to have maximum sun and minimal shadows.

Inside the shape creates pitched ceilings up to 5m high and a mix of square and triangular walls, partitions and glazing, with some walls sloping, especially at the top of the house, which rises up through five split-levels.

Living room
Living room
Living room through to dining room
Living room through to dining room
Dining room through to kitchen
Dining room through to kitchen

The couple who commissioned the home, a medic and an environmentalist, “wanted to make a joyful statement”, says Leech. “So much energy-conscious design appears to revolve around a techno-fixation, leading to rather dull boxes that are super-efficient. This is a more lyrical celebration of life in the woods.”

Naturally the ground floor has the most floorspace and contains an open-plan kitchen, living and dining room, centred on a wood-burning stove with Liscannor slate hearth. This opens to a conservatory. There is also a split-level office and library, bedroom, toilet, utility and garage.

On the next level is the main bedroom with a balcony overlooking the conservatory, an en suite and main bathroom. There are two bedrooms on the floor above this and another room in the attic.

Bedroom
Bedroom
Conservatory
Conservatory

Eco-elements include a heat pump and a heat-gaining Trombe wall which warms the house.

Nature is best experienced in the conservatory, which has views across the garden, pond and the trees beyond, comprising oak, beech, sycamore, arbutus and conifers.

Garden
Garden
Woodsmoke, Castlebernard, Bandon, Co Cork
Woodsmoke, Castlebernard, Bandon, Co Cork

“One of the clients was fascinated by woodland,” says Leech. “He knew every tree.” The couple managed the site in harmony: he a silviculturalist, who looked after the trees and built a wood store on site to dry logs (to heat the house), and she a permaculturalist, working the land. One of their children, who grew up here, now works as an ecologist.

It is so encouraging “when a client inhabits a building design as fully as intended”, says Sally Starbuck of Gaia Ecotecture.

Life circumstances have meant it is time to sell the house, which is two miles from Bandon. Woodsmoke, Castlebernard, Bandon, west Cork, which has a B3 rating (the assessment doesn’t take all eco-elements into account), is for sale through Savills for €750,000.