Kirsty Maguire – Home comforts and high performance buildings

August 29, 2019

Kirsty Maguire’s practice specialises in eco-architecture, with an emphasis on creating beautiful, high comfort, high performance and low energy buildings using low impact materials and construction.

Kirsty has over 20 years of experience in eco-architecture, working around the world. “I am the sixth generation of architects in my wider family,” says Kirsty. “My great grandmother was the first female architect registered in the UK with the RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland)She worked in Scotland primarily with schools and cathedrals, and revolutionised kitchen design to make it ergonomic and more like the kitchens we know today.” 

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One of the projects Kirsty is most proud of is the Hayshed Passivhaus Farmhouse in Ayrshire, modelled on the local farm vernacular of the west coast traditional hayshed. This was their first certified Passivhaus, which is the leading international low energy design standard.

Passivhaus buildings provide a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling. They are built with meticulous attention to detail and rigorous design and construction according to principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany, all using existing skills. The farmhouse has a heat recovery ventilation system providing fresh warm air, tiny space heating requirements for a cosy house even on the coldest winter days and hot water provided by an air source heat pump.

Interior view of the Passivhaus Hayshed showing a spiral staircase leading up to a mezzanine and one side of the room entirely windows.
Hayshed interior.

This was one of the earliest projects in the UK of this standard of construction and was a first for the design team, client and contractor. Kirsty says, “One of the most important things about the project was showing that this high level of comfort and performance can be achieved with care thanks to good design and a good contractor”.   

Subsequently, the practice has built on this project and developed expertise helping to take their work as far afield as Armenia and Georgia with the United Nations Development Programme.  

Two women speaking while looking at plans.
Kirsty Maguire.

At the root of the practice’s ethos is the consideration that minimising our impact on the planet is essential to our long-term future, and that design performance and low impact construction must be fully integrated into the design process from the start 

The priorities for each of our projects are agreed at the beginning, as these vary for each client,” Kirsty addsWe include material specification, performance and high comfort throughout the building’s life as well as ultra-low energy use; design for deconstruction for reuse or recycling of materials at the end of the building’s life; and the integration of the building into the landscape aesthetically and materially, be that rural or urban, housing or commercial. As well as working locally in Scotland, we work worldwide with this specialist expertise.” 

Rendering illsutration showing plans for a house.
Plans for BRE Passivhaus Competition for the Innovation Park at Ravenscraig.

Kirsty wants to highlight that ecological architecture can create both high comfort and high-performance buildings at small and large scale. “There are great contractors here in Scotland; working with these companies continues to demonstrate how well things can be done, as well as push boundaries further to continue to innovate.

All our projects are collaborative,” she addsAs well as those who have never built a building before, many of our clients are construction professionals or specialists in their own sustainability fields and this allows us to develop new ways of doing things together, making the most of all our expertise, helping them to create buildings that reflect their own ethos. This also allows us to bring this tried and tested innovation into our other projects where appropriate.

We are delighted to welcome Kirsty Maguire as a V&A Dundee Design Champion, recognising her commitment to ecological architecture, incorporating high comfort with low impact in her building designs.

To find out more, visit Kirsty’s website.

The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.


V&A Dundee’s Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner. 

Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month. 

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