Smart House

In front of the imposing mansion on the large triangular plot between Ditchling Road and Vere Road sits the Smart House. I heard about this intelligent building some years back but we only met on the recent Eco Open Houses weekend.

When I think back to 2003 when much of this clever building was conceived, there was little happening locally in the way of environmentally friendly construction. A similar building which I adore, Earthship Brighton, was built in 2005 and that’s about the closest that Brighton & Hove has. Funnily enough, I bumped into my friend Mischa Hewitt, part of the Earthship team, during my Smart House visit. We need more people like Mischa building in Brighton!

The Smart House brought together developer Colin Brace and architect Alan Phillips, both of whom currently have large stakes in the rejuvenation of the West Hove seafront. Colin is putting together the highly advanced PortZED scheme and Alan is designing the new Sackville Hotel site buildings. Alan told me, “The concept for the Smart House evolved directly from the context. Buildings are comfortable sitting IN sloping sites, not ON them.” I totally agree.

Much of what goes on around and within the Smart House is hugely logical. As a purpose-built eco home, it is naturally south-facing and rainwater is harvested to irrigate the garden. It has a sedum room with both solar thermal and photovoltaic panels. There are sixteen floor-to-ceiling doors across the front which provide ample light for the front rooms (from west to east, a master bedroom, a second bedroom and a lounge). The rooms behind (an en-suite bathroom, a shower room and a kitchen) receive some light through frosted glass doors inside but principally from windows in the roof.

As a general rule, I am not a fan of development on any green space in our city nor do I approve of the large former nursing home behind, Rose House, being divided into eight flats. The internal finishes within the Smart House, which include polished concrete walls, are exceptional at least – and this fascinating interior could make me forgive almost anything.

Buried walls, exposed concrete and solid floors don’t normally make for cosiness but this building is as cosy as they come. I expected chilliness but was ultimately met with warmth and tranquillity. If you do not believe me, be sure to visit during next year’s Eco Open Houses weekend.