Is it a wall or is it a window? Some designs may get you guessing, but only about the back of the house – house fronts remain traditional.
New houses are becoming distinctly two-faced. Their front elevations are remaining fairly conventional as PPG3's demands for design quality are met with traditional vernacular styling. But away from the street and prying eyes, the back of the house is being given bigger and bigger windows.

Developer Urban Splash and architect Shed KM are taking the idea to the limit with their proposal to revamp terraces in Seedley and Langworthy in Salford by backing them entirely in glass. A different team, led by developer Jeremy Paxton, is behind the new houses at Lower Mill Estate, near Somerford Keynes, in the Cotswolds. The latest phase of the holiday homes development with attitude, called Clearwater, comprises 99 houses beside a nature reserve of a lake.

Architect Richard Reid and Associates has made the most of the views by giving houses floor to ceiling glazing at ground floor level, glazing up to the gable at first floor level, and by adding features such as internal windows on to atriums and rooflights (pictured).

Contractor Conservation Builders specified aluminium-clad timber windows from Velfac. "We chose Velfac because they could be flexible," says Chris Hutchinson, managing director of Conservation Builders. "Some of the windows here are tricky shapes and if we got it wrong it would spoil a key aspect of the buildings."

Velfac site-measured the window openings, so that the manufactured windows would fit precisely into the traditionally built homes. The finished windows arrived on site about six weeks after the measuring process.

For subsequent houses, Conservation Builders has decided not to fit the windows until external walls have been rendered. "We can get a good seal more easily and it means that the windows won't get spattered in render," says Hutchinson.

The dash for sash
For most house fronts satisfying the vernacular means a return to the sash window. No window manufacturer's stand at this year's Interbuild show in Birmingham in April was complete without one and while the external appearance of the sash may hark back to the late 17th century, the technology has been brought up to date.

Andersen Windows' Woodwright sliding sash is the first product from the company made from Fibrex, a composite material made from reclaimed pine wood fibre bonded with a thermoplastic polymer. US window manufacturers have been evolving composites over the past decade, their benefits being that they combine the strength, thermal performance and aesthetic of wood with the low maintenance of PVCu. What's more, composites lay claim to being environmentally friendly, because they make best possible use of wood resources, do not need to be treated with wood preservatives and, in the case of Fibrex, incorporate 50% recycled material.

Manufacturers whose sash windows are made of more conventional materials are concentrating on design improvements. LB Plastics has improved the lines of its sliding sash and added an egress facility.

Andersen Windows
LB Plastics