Inspired architect Mark Siddall to make dream homes a reality

Mark Siddall of LEAP

A North East architect is launching a new online resource to help you find land and make your dream home a reality.

Durham-based Mark Siddall of LEAP – the Lovingly Engineered Architectural Practice – said the Forever Home Network was inspired both by a dream he could not fulfil for his elderly parents and award-winning houses he has designed over the last ten years. One of these opens its doors to the public for three days next month.

“As an architect I want the house my folks live in to look after them, not incarcerate them. I know how the right house could help them preserve their freedom as they get older,” he said.

Unfortunately, because of their declining health, it was now impractical for his parents to move home even though the walls of their current property were “closing in around them.”

“This experience has really confirmed my view that we need houses that work across all generations. Unfortunately, not all do.”

Although creating a forever home for his parents is no longer possible, Mr Siddall wants to help as many people as possible benefit from good quality housing that will “look after them throughout their retirement and into old age.”

The Forever Home Network offers support in a number of ways: from helping you to find land where you can build your own house, to avoiding costly mistakes during the property’s design and construction.

LEAP’s expertise was brought to bear on behalf of a couple who wanted a farmhouse built in Northumberland.

It is in an isolated location, subject to severe winter weather and had to function both as a home and a hub at the centre of a 150 acre organic farm.

It is also in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so it had to meet rigorous planning requirements as well as fulfilling the couple’s desire for a low energy home.

The property – Steel Farm, near Hexham – became the North East’s first privately owned home to meet the Passivhaus standard: the world’s leading quality assurance standard for comfortable, sustainable, low energy buildings.

The project resulted in major recognition of the work of Mr Siddall and his team. Steel Farm was last year named Best Small Project in the UK Passivhaus Awards and received three nominations for Best Value Home, Best Eco Home and Best Masonry Home at the prestigious national Build It Awards of 2015.

There are around 30,000 buildings in the world built to Passivhaus standards and the numbers are growing rapidly.

“Steel Farm has been opened to the public three times over the years. The feedback has been incredible,” said Mr Siddall, who also writes and lectures about Passivhaus design.

“Time and time again the owners, and the hundreds of visitors, have been delighted. It’s not just the good level of natural daylight that is so appealing, it’s the way the house remains cosy and warm during the depths of winter and cool during the summer. It’s something photos never capture. You have to experience it to appreciate it,” he said.

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Understandably – added Mr Siddall – when people create their forever home they have high expectations: “Unfortunately, what often gets overlooked is just how much a well-designed home can truly enhance their quality of life.

“Done correctly, your bills aren’t just slashed by up to 90% and you aren’t just buffered from rising fuel costs. With the right design you also create an accessible, adaptable, low maintenance home. Houses like these preserve your independence in old age and help you avoid having to move into a care home later in life – leaving your neighbours and friends behind. For this to work every part of the building has to fit together perfectly – and every space optimised.”

People can experience all this for themselves by visiting Steel Farm between 11 and 13 November. “But they’ll have to be quick,” said Mr Siddall. “With just 70 spaces available the open days are booked out every year. Plus, this is likely to be the last time the house is opened to the public.”

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To visit Steel Farm you should register by going to or calling 0191 375 7702 between 9am and 5pm, Mondays to Thursdays and on Saturdays.

For more information about the Forever Home Network visit