Latest News

Our ground source district heating/water system explained!

From the first time that we discussed our proposed ground source district heating and water system, we have all struggled to understand how it really works! Now that we have installed it, we can feel how it works from being in the first house to make use of it. However, it still seems fairly miraculous, complicated and intangible. There are so many operations and actions that occur in the system that you simply can’t see. Having tried to explain the system to a range of people, including friends, colleagues, students and residents, I thought the best way was to draw it! I am still not sure that it is 100% accurate, but it gives a pretty good idea!

open house project heating energy water diagram 2

Big Plans…….

062ED9FF-9227-47DE-956B-8D92F3BAC53D23AE1E9E-0B94-4D00-A8CA-4B48A5E3BA03D23B99D0-EC85-482F-B9A9-ECB1234E825A………literally, they must be A1 or something. Good job Leo and Kate have a big enough table in their gaff so we could have a good look at them 😂

So we (The Open House Project) are now on Phase 3 which comprises of units 2 and 3. These are the 3rd and 4th homes of the project (3 more up for grabs nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Unit 3 is ours (the Connors’) and we recently had hopefully our last planning meeting with Leo. I don’t say hopefully in a fed up or bad way as I have REALLY enjoyed the meetings when he has talked us through the plans and his design. We are just hopeful they will be approved and the build can start. 

I feel very lucky that Leo is the architect, not just for his undoubted abilities (see Sheffield Design Awards 2018 – Conservation Winner) but the fact we trust him implicitly so that when he has ‘managed our expectation’ we know it is because some of our (well…my) ideas just wouldn’t work, and he has made changes that were possible. I can’t imagine any better or smoother architect/client relationships. 

So we are now close to the submission stage and I cannot put into words (or verbally describe) how ‘real’ it all feels. The closest analogy would be the Fast Show sketch when Paul Whitehouse goes round saying everything is ‘Brilliant’. I’ve felt like it ever since the first talk through the plans with Leo, the excitement has come on like someone turning on a light switch. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. 

It’s also quite bizarre that I don’t have any nerves around the family moving lock stock and barrel North of the Watford Gap to new schools (pending 🤞), new jobs (again pending 🤞). 

Very exciting times. 

Bye for now



Sheffield Design Award Success

Shortly after it was announced we rang home to let people know the news… “we have won the conservation award”, “Oh, that’s a shame” was the response. “No, the Conservation Award!” we repeated! Once the penny had dropped and social media had started to kick-in, we began to celebrate our success at the Sheffield Design Awards!

Screenshot 2018-11-09 at 09.15.05

Having missed the beginning of the presentation, following a stressful drive across Sheffield, Kate and Greg arrived just in time for the announcement! It was great to be given the award amongst such an excellent range of  design projects.


It was a great evening, and we were delighted to be recognised for our ongoing work! The Sheffield Design Award Judges produced a lovely description of our project and we received a certificate as well!

SDA2018 CECA Long Barn

Although the award was named for the Long Barn, the supporting information that we submitted and the judges visit took onboard the project as a whole. We would be delighted to welcome the SDA team back in the future to see our next phase of our conversion!


An award for our hard work?

Since the completion of the Long Barn in April, we have been personalising the space and making it feel like home! We have also really enjoyed seeing the building in different weather conditions and during the changing light throughout the summer. We feel like we have created something special and wanted to celebrate it!

The Long Barn 10 - an ongoing project (1)

When colleagues from the architecture practice visited, they were really taken with the building and suggested that we submit if for the Sheffield Design Awards! Brad, Jen, Howard and Claire (CE+CA) were able to take some great photos and we forged the application with their help!

The Sheffield Design Awards are organised by the Sheffield Society of Architects and Sheffield Civic Trust, and run every 2 years, to champion design and innovative architecture in our area. So the timing was right to have a go.

After a few weeks, we received news that our hard work had paid off, as we were one of 16 projects shortlisted from the initial entries. There are a number of different award categories that the Long Barn could be considered for, including housing, environment and conservation award.

After being shortlisted, the next step was to welcome the judging panel and give them a guided tour of the site and the Long Barn itself. Unlike many of the other projects entered for the awards, The Open House Project is ongoing, and with plenty of work left to do. We tried to explain and capture the environmental and social aspirations of the project as a whole, as well as describe the design approach to the Long Barn. We also tried to get across how the building is very much a functioning home for our family. We are not sure that there will ever be so many people stood in our bathroom again!


We are delighted to have been shortlisted for the Sheffield Design Awards 2018! We will find out if the The Long Barn has been successful at the SDA awards evening on 25th October.

We hope that we will also be able to put forward the next buildings for awards in the future! Fingers crossed!!



OMG!!! We went to Barnes Hall Farm, and you wouldn’t believe what happened!!!

When the Cares and Hackworthys revealed their plans for Barnes Hall Farm in 2011, we were amazed and impressed.

“Oh wow,” we said. “We can’t wait to get up there and see it.”

Well, in May 2018, we were as good as our word.

It only took us seven years.

Perhaps it was for the best though as by leaving it so long we got to see two completed dwellings, rather than some ruined farm buildings and lots of scaffolding.

Actually, there are still plenty of ruined farm buildings and lots of scaffolding.

But Barnes Hall Farm totally lived up to our highest expectations. It really is incredible.

We chose a perfect weekend for a visit. The sun was hot, the blossom was bursting out and the views were stunning (as long as you ignored Rotherham).

So, what’s the best way of recording our thoughts about our visit? Well, everything’s a list these days isn’t it?

In that spirit, here’s ours.


1. Chez Leo and Kate. Wow.

We arrived just weeks after Leo and Kate inexplicably moved out of a 1974 caravan and into a home Kevin McCloud would weep tears of joy over. Their place is amazing. So light and airy! So full of natural wood furniture! It’s almost as if the architect knew what he was doing.

long barn1

2. You too can stay in that caravan from 1974

Now that Leo and Kate have moved out, you can stay in the static caravan. It’s very comfortable. But it’s also right out of the 70s. If you feel like channeling Sid James and Babs Windsor, this is the place.


3. Sheila has 100 tomato plants

The polytunnel is absolutely groaning with produce. Very impressive. If you’re planning to visit remember not to bring any tomatoes. They already have about 10,000.

4. Forget conventional plumbing, this place has an 80 foot bore hole

80 ft bore hole. It sounds like someone who talks all day about motor racing. But it’s actually the source of all the water at the farm. Amazing.

5. The cows are friendly, but they do give dirty looks

We walked through the farmer’s field to take a look at the manor house. The cows didn’t attack. But one of them did look up and chew with mild aggression.

6. Petite women are welcome to do back-breaking manual work


There is always work to be done at Barnes Hall Farm. On our visit, the task of moving heaving masonry was taken on by the man of the house (Imogen: 5ft 3.5inches). Meanwhile Tim talked about sci-fi with Greg over a cup of tea.

7. There might be an owl

Twitchers gonna love BHF. So much to see. Wagtails. Mistle Thrushes. Rumours of an owl…

8. There’s a football pitch

If you’ve seen the film Field Of Dreams, you’ll recall how farmer Kevin Costner mows a baseball pitch into an unused field. Then the ghosts of old players start to visit. Well, the home of Barnes Hall Farm FC (club captain R. Hackworthy) is a bit like that, but with Joe as the farmer and Exeter FC legend Steve Flack as the ghost.


9. What the hell happens inside the plant room?

The secrets of Barnes Hall Farm’s self-sufficiency in water is revealed in the plant room.  Huge tanks. Endless cabling. Labyrinthine pipe work. Or is it a time machine?


10. Only the Victorians would put architectural flourishes on a threshing barn

Some of the buildings at Barnes Hall Farm are listed. Quite right too. They’re lovely. Ah, they did things differently in the old days. Can you imagine anyone putting elegant colonnades on an Amazon warehouse?


So there you are. Listicle complete. It was great to be part of the Barnes Hall Farm adventure for a couple of days. If Sheila, Greg, Leo and Kate’s incredible homes are any indication, the next phase will be fantastic.

If you have time, get up there and help/drink tea with Greg.




So this is a wee bit off the topic of OHP, but, as it’s my OHP Blog debut I thought I’d stick with something I know well.

As a North Londoner moving to South Yorkshire I had a BIG decision to make…..what football team to follow?

My team is The Arsenal (and always will be), ever since the early 80’s. Can’t really recall why as my dad was a Fulham supporter who is more into rugby.

My first game was a one nil win against Southampton at Highbury in May 1985. A scoreline that over time became synonymous with The Arsenal in the nineties and noughties and sung along to the tune of a Pet Shop Boys hit.

I’ve never been a regular attender and probably average less than a game a season over the past 33 years. With 5 being the most in a season in 16/17 when I started taking my oldest along. Competition for my disposable income has been the main reason for not going as much as I’d have liked.

So decisions, decisions. As the crow flies (well, google maps directions) the nearest teams are:

Sheffield Wednesday 3.7 miles
Rotherham United 7 miles
Sheffield United 7.2 miles

Sheffield Wednesday were never a consideration for me due to 1993, when both domestic finals were between AFC and SWFC. The FA Cup Final (replay) won with an Andy Linighan header, despite playing a lot of the game with a broken nose. The League Cup Final won with a goal by Stevie Morrow. He was later unceremoniously dropped by captain Tony Adams and fell awkwardly during the celebrations on the pitch at the final whistle and was rushed to hospital with a broken arm.

So, Rotherham, they already had the inside track to be honest. They play in the same shirts as The Arsenal, red with white sleeves. I had also already seen the Millers win their own cup final in 1996. The oft forgotten Football League Trophy (known as the Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy at the time).

I had actually gone to Wembley that day as a Shrewsbury Town supporter with my then boss (a Shrew) and a few work colleagues on a bit of a beano. It would have been inconceivable to think that 22 years later I would start following Rotherham United.

Another link with the Millers came about by chance. Due to a reshuffle at work I ended up working with a guy named Jacko who was/is from Rotherham and a fully fledged supporter going to games whenever he could especially when they were away to teams in London. During one of my (and the family’s) trips to the farm we arranged to go to a Millers game. I brought Luca and Joe brought Raymond. It was February 2016 against Brentford and the Millers were being managed by Neil Warnock at the time. I think it was one of his first few games in charge and Rotherham were staring relegation in the face and hadn’t scored let alone won for a few games. Now I know I can’t take all the credit as a lucky charm but the Millers won 2-1 and went on an unbeaten run of 11 games and maintained their place in The Championship. Luca loved it and was laughingly told off by a steward for over celebrating the Millers winner when rushing to the edge of the pitch.

Sheffield United never really got considered, as a bit like with multiple choice exams, once you see the right answer, stop looking.

So come the 2019/20 season I will endeavour to get along to the New York Stadium whenever possible.


Guest Blog: Charlotte Staton, HAS

HAS (Humanitarian Architecture Society) is a student-led society from the University of Sheffield. We arranged for a group of 12 students to visit Open House on 12th January this year, eager to learn more about the concept of co-housing and the challenges involved in working with listed buildings. It was a crisp, foggy morning and Leo kindly showed us round and gave us a fantastic tour. Following an explanation of how the project began and the history of the site, we got our hard hats on and followed Leo through the scheme.

HAS visit 1

We started the tour at the first completed home on the site which is already occupied by Leo’s parents. We then proceeded into the communal gardens and learnt how this will be used to provide some fresh veg for the families. HAS was particularly interested in seeing what sustainable technologies have been implemented so it was great to see the ground source heat pump which has recently been installed!

We then explored some of the other listed buildings, including the quirky pigeon loft, and ended the tour at the second building to undergo renovation. The interior is looking fabulous and the choice of materials has created a unique yet modest aesthetic. Since the majority of buildings are yet to begin renovation it was a good time to compare them and see how far they’ve come. We’re really excited to hear how they get on and hopefully we’ll get the chance to see it once it’s all complete!

Finishing Touches?

Several of the wall surfaces in the central space of the Long Barn have created quite a stir! Everyone involved has had a view on them, whether positive or negative… and that was before they were applied! The two materials in question are Savolit boards and Cedar shingles.

The Savolit boards are often used on car parks, or as an external wall surface to render on to. They are made from thin strands of wood that are compressed together and mixed with a small amount of cement, which gives them the look of grey spaghetti! If this all sounds rather dubious, they have a really good acoustic absorption properties, which we hope will help to dampen the sound in the living spaces. The boards also have a passing resemblance to stacked straw bales, which is exactly what may have been stored up on the timber first floor of the barn during one of the the building’s evolutionary phases.


The Cedar shingles are a more traditional building material and usually used as cladding. They smell fantastic and have natural oils that mean they don’t need to be treated. Shingles are hung in overlapping sequences to allow water to run off easily. This is not something that will be a problem inside the building, but it’s important that the material construction has a sort of integrity to it, or as the builders say, to ‘look right’.



Together these materials book-end the central space and add to the feel of an external courtyard or street. This is perhaps an unusual thing to say about a house or even a barn conversion, but we hope that it provides a sociable and interactive setting for family life.