El Ray at Dungeness Beach
by Simon Conder Associates

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Our second project this week from British studio Simon Conder Associates is a timber-clad house built around a nineteenth-century railway carriage on Dungeness beach in Kent, England.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

Simon Conder Associates designed El Ray beach house as the summer home for a family, who had previously lived in just the old carriage.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

"We were asked by our clients to increase the accommodation area by approximately 50 percent and dramatically improve the environmental performance of the house," said Simon Conder.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

Completed in 2008, the house is located between two other shacks near the Dungeness power station. It features a bell-shaped plan, incorporating a sheltered front terrace and a pair of recessed courtyards that are protected from the prevailing winds.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

The railway carriage is contained at the centre of house and accommodates a kitchen within its worn shell. A living room surrounds and opens out to all three terraces.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Chris Gascoigne

Different tones give a striped pattern to the hardwood exterior cladding. There are also ramps leading into the house from the surface of the beach.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

A flat sloping roof acts as an observation deck with sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding beach and ocean.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Chris Gascoigne

The walls, roof and floor are insulated using recycled newspaper, meaning very little energy is needed for heating, lights and ventilation.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Chris Gascoigne

In extremely cold weather, electric heating is powered by a rooftop wind turbine to heat beneath the floorboards in the two bedrooms and bathroom.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Chris Gascoigne

Simon Conder more recently completed a pair of timber-clad houses built on a steep hill in the town Porthtowan.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

Other seaside houses in the UK include a shingle-clad house elsewhere on Dungeness beach, a small wooden house on the tip of the Isle of Skye and an experimental beach house at MaldonSee more British houses »

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Chris Gascoigne

Here's a project description from the architects:


El Ray, Dungeness Beach, Kent

Dungeness beach is a classic example of ‘Non-Plan’ and the houses that populate the beach have developed through improvisation and bodge. This scheme develops this tradition in a way that responds to the drama and harshness of the landscape.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Photograph by Paul Smoothy

El Ray is part of a group of five beach houses located immediately to the east of the huge Dungeness A power station. The original house consisted of a 19th century railway carriage with flimsy lean tos to the north and south. It was in extremely poor condition and too small to accommodate our clients and their growing family. We were asked by our clients to increase the accommodation area by approximately 50%, and dramatically improve the environmental performance of the house.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Site plan - click for larger image

The new house incorporates the old railway carriage inside a highly insulated timber structure. The carriage forms the centre point of the main living area and accommodates the kitchen. A fully glazed southern elevation gives views out over the channel and a series of smaller slot windows on the other elevations give focused views of the adjacent lighthouse, coastguard station and nuclear power station.

The sloping roof deck acts as an observation platform with extraordinary 360 degree views of the beach and the sea. The plan incorporates two courtyards to provide shelter from the constant wind.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Floor plan - click for larger image

Environmental Performance

Environmental control is achieved through a combination of super insulation, passive solar gain, cross ventilation and a wind turbine.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
Cross section - click for larger image

The high levels of insulation in the walls, roof and floor ensure that heat loss from the building is minimal and very little energy is required for heating, lighting and ventilation. External glazing consists of a combination of double-glazed, low ‘E’, argon- filled frameless fixed lights and thermally-broken, aluminium sliding doors. The structural timber frame is constructed from lightweight engineered timber I-Joists, braced inside and out with a sheathing material manufactured entirely from wood waste. The insulation between the I-joists and studs is made from recycled newspaper. The external cladding and decking is made from an FSC certified hardwood called Itauba and the internal wall linings, floors and all joinery are constructed from FSC certified birch plywood.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
North and south elevations - click for larger image

A canopy projects out over the south deck to shade the living areas from the high summer sun, but allows the low winter sun to warm the house. When necessary a wood-burning stove, using drift wood from the beach, is used to supplement the passive solar gain in the winter months and in extremely cold conditions electric under floor heating, powered by the wind turbine, will heat the two bedrooms and the bathroom.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
East elevation - click for larger image

It is anticipated that the during the year the wind turbine will generate more electricity than the house will consume, meaning that the house can be run at carbon negative. The client intends to sell any surplus electricity generated by the wind turbine back to the National Grid.

El Ray at Dungeness Beach by Simon Conder Associates
West elevation - click for larger image

Architects: Simon Conder Associates
Design Team: Simon Conder, Pippa Smith
Structural Engineer: Fluid Structures
Environmental Engineer: ZEF
Contractor: Ecolibrium Solutions
Construction cost per m2: £1,780.00
Completed: July 2008

  • Aaron

    It’s interesting that people can’t help themselves but to build bigger and grander. The appeal of Dungeness is its ramshackle quality and the romance of living simply and in close proximity to the world, as exemplified by Darek Jarman. But eventually everyone wants a big fridge and designer bathroom.

    It’s a lovely house: beautiful. I just think it’s a shame that the clients couldn’t settle for just leaving the place as it is. When all the houses look like this it wont be Dungeness anymore.

    And surely the energy costs of the construction and materials of the new building far outweighed any inefficiencies in the old?