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Live, Work and Play

KAST Architects’ raison d’être is to provide a space to allow people to do these things – sustainably. 

Creating buildings infused with Cornish spirit, KAST Architects design with respect for the people they collaborate with and the planet from which we all borrow resources. We delve deeper to find out what motivates them.

Can you describe your design philosophy and how it influences your approach to architecture?


Sustainability underpins, over-arches and threads through our approach to each project. It is fully integrated within the design process and therefore neither dominates our work, nor is it left to chance. For us it is about how we can design in such a way as to minimise our impact on the planet, through our choice of materials and the energy efficiency of the building. Sometimes it is about questioning whether there is a need for a building at all.


We are also proud to be part of the B Corporation movement, a group of organisations using business as a force for good. By working with KAST, our clients can be assured of a high-quality sustainable design that puts people and the planet before profit.


What are some of the unique challenges you face when designing high-end residential properties, and how do you overcome them?


The main challenge that the industry as a whole has been facing over the last few years has been the rapid increase in construction costs brought about by the perfect storm of Brexit, a global pandemic and an energy crisis brought about by the war in Ukraine. While things are now settling down, prices are much higher than they were five years ago.

As a result, conversations surrounding budget and aspirations have become increasingly critical to ensure that we can deliver the house or building that our clients have been dreaming of.

We will always be upfront with our clients about their budget. We have a thorough understanding of the costs involved in building a bespoke house, and we work with experienced consultants to ensure that we keep a close eye on cost throughout the whole process. 


It is also important to approach the conversations about cost in a positive manner, focussing on what is possible rather than what might need to be omitted to ensure the viability of the project. We believe that it is irresponsible to promise our clients the world, with a budget and design that are out of sync.

Could you share a particularly memorable project or projects that exemplify KAST?


Sea Edge was our first commission and so it has a very special place in our hearts, while Sylvania, with its dramatic cantilever, really helped to put us on the map. Fairfield marked a move to a more modest and controlled approach to design and Milk Moon Barn was our first renovation of a historic structure.

How do you incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly practices into your designs without compromising on aesthetics or quality?


We ensure that our sustainable approach is embedded from the outset; it cannot be an add-on that is left to the last minute. Throwing a load of solar panels on the roof will never compensate for a poorly designed and detailed building. Within our practice we have three certified Passivhaus designers, and it is this rigorous, scientific approach to design, combined with artistic flair and talent, that ensures our clients get the whole package.


What role do client interactions play in your design process, and how do you ensure their vision is brought to life?


When someone asks us to design their dream home, it is an enormous privilege and honour. We are also very mindful that it comes with a great responsibility to ensure their money is spent wisely and appropriately. Too often architects can forget who they are working for and end up designing for themselves and for their own portfolio or ego.


When we are engaged by a client to work with them, we really try to get under the skin of what is important to them and spend a great deal of time discussing their brief, their requirements and how they want the building to function. A good quality brief with clearly defined goals will inevitably result in a successful project.


Communication is key and we will ensure that our clients are fully aware of the process and are kept informed of progress. There will be times of considerable collaboration and then times when we will be focussing on the technical aspects and liaising more with the other consultants such as engineers, landscape architects and interior designers.

We really value the direct relationship we have with our clients and are proud of how we are able to transform the way they live and the quality of their lives through the work that we do.

Can you talk about the integration of technology in your projects? 


We are in a climate emergency and buildings are a significant culprit of carbon emissions – accountable for 35% of total global energy consumption. So, as well as carefully choosing materials with a low carbon footprint, we also adopt a whole-building approach to our designs known as Passivhaus. This sets out clear, measured targets and focuses on high quality construction methods, certified through an exacting quality assurance process.

We use our in-house Passivhaus expertise and this approach to designing is now a core part of our DNA as a practice. Designing to Passivhaus standards requires us to use specialist software to accurately model the thermal performance of the building, its heating and cooling demand, plus the need for renewable energy systems. 


How do you stay ahead of design trends while ensuring your projects remain timeless and elegant?

At KAST we tend not to focus on design trends. Styles come and go and so we prefer to design each project based on its brief, context and needs of our clients. The architect and design theorist, Christopher Alexander, wrote about timeless architecture and we endeavour to adopt these principles in the way we approach our work. There should be a balance of simplicity and complexity to ensure the architecture remains engaging, dynamic and rich. Perhaps most importantly, Alexander talks about Emotional Resonance, and how timeless architecture should evoke a deep sense of comfort and belonging for its inhabitants.


What materials and finishes do you prefer to use in your projects, and why do you believe they are crucial to your design?


While we work hard at ensuring our designs are as energy efficient as possible, what we would describe as low operational carbon, we cannot ignore the embodied carbon in the materials that we use. As buildings become more energy efficient, the impact that the choice of material has is increased.


When we look at the structure, we try hard to reduce or omit the use of concrete and steel, both of which have a high embodied carbon, and instead use timber, a natural and renewable resource. For our insulation we use recycled newspaper or wood-fibre rather than petro-chemical based products. To clad our houses we use timber, stone or slate - all natural materials and often available locally.


As an example, we are currently designing a house using straw bales within a timber frame, while the cedar, which will clad the house, will be milled from trees on the client’s land and the internal walls will be finished in a natural clay plaster.

How do cultural, geographical and regional influences shape your designs, particularly when working on Cornish projects?


We believe that it is important to design in response to a site’s surroundings and context rather than merely reflect the look of adjacent buildings. With much of Cornwall falling within designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we strive to ensure our designs respect the landscape through their form, mass and choice of materials. The coastline, hills, valleys and rivers will be here long after our houses are gone, so we have to remember that we are temporarily borrowing the sites that we build on.


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