If you install an air-source heat pump (ASHP) to heat your property, it will attract a subsidy called Renewable Heat Incentive, which is a payment to you based on how much CO2 emissions are saved by the installation of the system.
The calculation is done on the basis of the guestimated CO2 emissions numbers in your (less than 2 years old) EPC Report, taking potential savings by loft and cavity wall insulation (which you can often get done for free) into account. Naturally that means that if you upgrade your fabric by other methods, and have a new EPC done before you apply, your subsidy will be materially smaller.
Here is a comparison for 2 semi-detached bungalows, one with an EPC of 74-C, and the other with an EPC of 44-E.
Annual energy for heating: 6,577 kWh.
Annual energy for water heating: 1706 kWh.
Total energy: 8283 kWh.
Calculated RHI Payments: £530 for 7 years.
Annual energy for heating: 12,283 kWh.
Annual energy for water heating: 3421 kWh.
Total energy: 15704 kWh.
Calculated RHI Payments: £630 for 7 years.
What to do:
Get a new EPC report to document the poor status (about £50), and get your ASHP process done under that rule, rather than doing it later.
In the case of the small detached bungalow above, the difference is worth £700.
(Cynics Corner: The apparent truth that for such an install done the official way to get the subsidy - via an Approved Installer - seems to cost more than having one by a competent installer who is not Approved, by an amount which takes up most of your potential subsidy-gains, is not to be mentioned.)
My bathroom needs a refurbishment because a whole line of tiles has cracked, I think due to moisture-induced movement in the subfloor.
In my last article, I posted some photos of the current arrangement, and possible ideas. This is just thinking out loud about a couple of possible layouts. As ever all comments are most welcome.
Here is the current layout, which shows the plan but does not include the full set of posh bits (eg shower here is a wetroom area with showers both ends):
Here are my two ways to incorporate a bath, and replace the wetroom area. Personally my preference is for a location in the window, though perhaps with no door to the shower. Whilst I think this is stylish, the other option below is more practical.
IMO this option would need something of a more solid barrier to separate bath and loo.
2 - Bath in Window Area / Reduce Shower Size
This option uses a double ended bath as shown.
3 - Bath in Alcove / Reduced Shower Size
This has more intimacy, and would probably want a single ended bath, due to the alcove.
The alcove into the hipped roof:
And a photo of the dormer window alcove, which is 1.5m wide.
This post is a record of the initial Estimated Prices, and stated final cost of the 10 self-builders featured in the Grand Designs - The Street, about 10 of the first houses built at the Gravenhill Self-Build development site at Bicester.
Watching the first episode, the 10 property street is starting to remind me of the Homeworld 1981 / Future Home 2000 exhibition, which is now Coleshill Place, Milton Keynes. The featured picture is of that exhibition site as it is now taken from Google Earth - looking embedded and conventional.
No 1, The Street - Budget for plot + build £275,000. Out-turn quoted - £335,000. A couple in their 60s.
No 2, The Street - Budget for plot + build £275,000. Out-turn quoted - £400,000 approx. A single lady in her 70s. This house had cantilevers fail and the roof split at the ridge-beam, requiring £20k + of recovery work.
These are 10 steps if your Electricity Bills are out of control in a house which has not yet been renovated. They are the "low hanging fruit". The aim is to get you started and seeing good results in a short period without too much long-term work.
If your house is currently not insulated, and you have not optimised your electricity bill, savings of 40-50% or more may be achievable.
Here with go with the first 10 steps, which can be done then left alone for some time - ignoring major investments like new windows and doors, and major or very detailed projects.
1 - Set some realistic targets and monitoring - I suggest, over 3 years:
Year 1: Minus 20% on current bill.
Year 2: Minus 33% on current bill.
Year 3: Minus 40% on current bill.
Record and monitor usage at some regularity ,whether weekly, monthly or quarterly. Perhaps a thread on BH or a blog post. For performance and encouragement.
If you want to monitor your whole house supply, there are also meters where a sensor clamps around the main supply cable and transmits to a meter inside your house. These have been around for a long time, and the best known is by a brand called OWL.
Suggest in addition to your meter and a couple of plug meters, one of those Owls or similar that clamps on the supply - use it to check which of your four buildings uses most. If nobody else can, I can lend you one - I think.
Remember to keep looking for the big targets.
2 - Check the balance vs payment numbers.
Is there a big credit on the account if you are on monthly payments. Can you get 10% off the monthly charge with a phone call just by challenging it? This will need a repeat check as your usage falls fsater than they notice.
3 - Change tariff.
Savings on the first switch seem to be 20-30% for most I have seen try it.
I use MSE Cheap Energy Club, and have it set to warn me when I can save >£150 per year. That prompts action, but does not annoy me every month.
Consider a longer term fixed tariff from a decent big supplier of energy, rather than a bust-every-3-months minnow.
4 - Get the stuff other people will do for free.
Call someone like the Energy Saving Trust, and see what is available in your area. For example:
a - 250mm insulation in loft. I can still get this.
b - Cavity wall insulation? I know someone who had this last year.
5 - Replace all your lightbulbs with LEDs.
Payback time may be around a year. Especially any of those 300W or 500W outside floods.
6- Are there any visible holes?
For example, light through gaps round outside doors, catflaps etc. Block 'em up with traditional draught remedies, and keep the cat in the shed, with a catflap there.
7 - i s your roof space well sealed from the main area of the house.
For example, is your loft hatch sealed and insulated? New insulated ones are cheap.
You will need this in place for a Positive Input Ventilation fan to work successfully.
8 - Do your extract fans have backdraft shutters?
If not, switch them over. From about £30.
9 - If you have trickle vents, then replace them (foam them up) with proper controlled ventilation.
Use a PIV in the house, and trickle /boost extract fans to keep it flowing. That is what I usually do in rentals and have now done at home. Works and gives some control for £400-£750.
10 - Use spot heaters that heat People not Rooms
Can you tweak the heating in your garage or shed, by using spot radiant heaters rather than heating the whole thing?
eg For our childrens play area at the gym we have one of these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eterna-Quartz-Radiant-Mounted-600watt/dp/B00F2H1WF8 . Costs <£30.
Bonus 11 - Over time work on the strategic stuff as you are able - underfloor insulation, 2G, dry lining, thermal survey etc. And also the tactical stuff - replacing appliances, finding small but constant loads.
Turn it all the way to 12, and beat Spinal Tap - Plan a big treat with some of the savings. This may help convince the rest of your household that it is worth persevering.
I hope that this brief guide will get you started on some of the more straightforward and easier things you can do to cut your bills, without having too much hard slog to achieve noticeable results quickly.
If you have any questions, join Buildhub and start a thread on the main forum, or comment below.
This summer I need to have my upstairs bathroom refurbished. It was installed 12 yeas ago by the previous house owner, who also did the self-build addition of an upper storey to the previous bungalow. The bathroom has lots of lovely features including electric ufh, and a long crack all the way down a row of tiles.
I think the room pretty much needs gutting, as the problem is probably under the floor, which is a huge pity because the fittings are so pleasant. I think, however, that I may be able to retain the wall tiles, and perhaps reuse the existing shower screen (which looks expensive to replace).
The requirements are:
1 - Fix floor, replace ufh and retile.
2 - Replace wetroom area with large shower, perhaps with storage area (I really do not need a 2.6m x 1.1m shower).
3 - Add bath.
4 - Replace loo with something a little less temperamental.
5 - Replace whb with one with more space for bottles and things, possibly a vanity unit.
I have a couple of months to think about this, so any comments would be very welcome.
Here is the crack:
My verdict on that crack is that the subfloor may have been done with 8x4 sheets of standard chipboard, rather than tongue and groove, and that moisture has got in and made the joint expand. There are also a couple of other cracks at right angles, and the wetroom area is suffering a little.
Here are a few snapshots of the room, including some excellent tiling on a hipped corner. First a simplified layout and 3d:
Where it fits:
Inside of dormer window:
Whb and towel rail:
Loo (the blotches are as a result of compressing the photo):
The wetroom area:
As I say, this is one to chew on ... so any comments are welcome.
Bored of your downlighters? Why not replace them with bulbs to give a different appearance to your ceiling?
Just an idea that I happened to see in a house in Kent a couple of weeks ago.
GU10 bulbs are available in shape other than downlighters, for example candle bulbs:
It is far netter not to have done it in the first place, but at least there are ways to mitigate the damage.
(No, GU10 downlighers are not my favourite. form of lighting.)
A scaffold tent is a shelter completely encompassing a build, or part of a build, to allow 'indoor' working whatever the weather.
Recently a ran across a 16C barn inside one when I was taking the scenic route from Canterbury to Lewes to buy scaffolding.
The project was a builder restoring his barn, after a Planning Process that had taken more than a decade.
I spotted this inside a local cafe this week.
Liquorice Allsort chic is not quite my taste, but the door is not as obvious as could be the case.
It is an a sample of how to incorporate an element into a stronger pattern than the outline as a means to de-emphasise it. Here it could have been further concealed by choosing a different handle, or concealed hinges.
It could also have been made full height.
This week I came across a team installing entire sections of loft on a house-build with a seriously large crane.
Really quite interesting, and an opportunity to indulge in some doggerel.
As I was planning for my toft
I met a man with a Modular Loft
Windows were installed and tiles
With insulation, floors and style
Windows, Lift, Loft, Tiles
Make an instant ancient pile!
A extraordinarily transportable loft -
But do I want one for my toft?
(with apologies to St Ives)
More photos below, and you can see the contact details on the side of the van in the last picture if you want one..
Gently does it...
What they are matching...
Close-ups and Details
The Company Installing
A varied, and educational, long weekend laying down laminate flooring (one of the Uniclic range from Quick-Step) to help an acquaintance improve his house in London.
The task was to lay about 3 rooms-worth full of Uniclic Laminate (28 packs), and moving a lot of furniture around - the killer reason for needing two people.
My protagonist in laying the laminate, and moving all the furniture, is a detail-of-finish man, and at one stage was whittling away with a multitool for 20 minutes at a piece of laminate to match the outline of a curly 1930s doorpost; a demented boy-scout aiming for "Floor Laying, Advanced".
Inevitably the worst happened. As at Beauvais Cathedral in 1284, the integrity of the structure did not quite measure up to the aspiration of the designer, and there was a sharp crack followed by some of the most creative language expressed in 750 years. It worked second time around.
Having bought a car with the dimensions of a small barge (aka my new Skoda Superb Estate), this was the first opportunity to really test the performance over a long run. An MPG of 59 on the way down to London on a Thursday afternoon / teatime, and 64 mpg on the way back on a clear run, measured on a tested-and-accurate car-computer, will do for a car that can fit in a couple of coffins, and tow 2 tonnes. It is about 10-20% more economical than my old non-turbocharged Citroen BX from the mid-1990s, and has twice the power.
Whilst on waiting time, I was able to binge-watch on Netflix the documentary The 9 episode 11hr documentary mini-series The Civil War, by Ken Burns. I never studied this historical period at school, and time to reflect provoked a few new insights for me - a bit of an eye-opener.
I had not absorbed just how contemporaneous is the American Civil War. We (or at least I) think of it is a long time ago, but the war was only 5 years before my own Great-Grandfather was born.
The last Civil War widow - Maudie Hopkins - only died in 2008. Yes - she was a 19 year-old who married a pensioner during the depression, on what looks like a classic security-for-care type arrangement, but the point stands. Sobering.
Clearing out a little, I have come across a cache of material from my father's Architecture Course at Sheffield University in the late 1950s. There is also a brochure from the GRP products he was offering around 1983 from one of the original Raleigh Buildings in Nottingham.
Lots of interesting projects - this is one for a "Country House", and I can see the stripped down style of the period, but there are also quarters for a maid. And a lot of illlustrations done in watercolour.
And the scale is - yes - 1 inch to 6 feet. Here are a few pics, which are just auto-colour-balanced. The entry was done in haste so there are a couple of duplicates.
Some things are irresistable.
This prescient 1903 painting by C. M. Coolidge shows Planning Consultants meeting the Council, even though it is supposedly called "A Friend in Need".
With apologies to any highbrow art people on the forum ... this is very much the 1890s version of the Jack Vettriano niche.
Like the best magazines, this article consists mainly of pictures - as it is nearly Bank Holiday weeking and I am heading off to a Camping Barn near @recoveringacademic's place with friends.
The problem is straightforward.
About 5 years ago on moving to the current house I had a 8' by 8' shed constructed in a corner of the garden which consisted of (perceived) well-packed rubble from many years ago. We used a base of concrete fence-posts laid flat to allow some minimal give, and room to expel any unwelcome undershed-dwellers, and to avoid the extra expense of a full concrete slab.
How wrong I was. The ground turned out to be as movable as a slow-motion mattress, probably due to the rubble not being as compacted as thought, heave from a nearby tree, and a succession of extreme summers. The thing seems to move by up to a couple of inches at one end or the other up or down depending on how the weather, the tree and the rubble are changing. And the shed has needed adjusting twice since it was put in, and it still looks wonky.
A further issue was a frame on the shed not quite strong enough to prevent shear distortion (ie the roof moving sideways relative to the base to give a rhombus shape.)
I decided to use a product from ASP Wallbarn called Adjustable Support Pads, in this case their Megapad product which supports 1500kg per pad, and which give nearly 4 inches of vertical movement on each pad. These were installed under the existing posts using a couple of trolley jacks and a bit of digging. The pads can be adjusted after installation. The cost for 8 pads delivered was just over £70.
If you order these or similar from online trade or retail sellers, then you may well be much more heavily clobbered by expensive shipping costs. I ordered these over the phone from Wallbarn, and they even reduced the £15 shipping cost to £7; the products arrived the next morning.
Total time taken was about 6 hours for one man.
This photo shows the full range of adjustment, and the component parts.
The shed as it was on Wednesday morning
Leaning to the Left.
Wedges and a door that has not been lockable for some time
Doing the job
Correcting the shear, and installing a new brace
Job Done. I hope.
Will it work?
Ask me in a couple of years, when the ground has moved again.
Total cost was under £200. A new shed plus a concrete slab would have been about £1000 or a little more done professionally with careful sourcing.
The chap doing the work is the excellent John Smith of Little John Property Services (M: 07702 033296), who does a lot of property maintenance for me.
I came across this conversation about having a domain name for a self-built house between @ProDave and @vivienz, and thought that the new .uk domain names are potentially of interest and would be worth a brief comment.
These are domain names which link straight into the uk's top-level domain - so you have dunroamin.uk rather than dunroamin.org.uk or dunroamin.co.uk. That seems to me to be more suitable for a house which is inherently neither a non-profit 'organisation', nor a commercial company. That can be used for a project website or self-build blog, or a business such as a B&B - or can be reserved in case such a use might be required in the future.
There is a limitation in that if an identical name exists in the co.uk, org.uk or me.uk domain hierarchies, then the owner of that domain has a pre-emptive "grandfathered"right to buy the .uk version until mid-2019.
However, where the domain name is not registered in one of the other hierarchies mentioned, it can be purchased now.
There is a fairly good explanation of this process on the 123-reg website.
As an example, I have recently helped set up a website for my handyman under the domain little-john.uk, for "Little John Property Services" (this is near Sherwood Forest) which is available now, but littlejohn.uk is not available now as littlejohn.co.uk is used by a Bathroom Company already.
This is slightly ironic for me, as I have been trying to get rid of the name of my house for the last 4 years.
It is called something horribly 1950s, and the name seems attached to the Council database like a stand of Knotweed. Every time the nice person on the phone says "I have taken it off and it has gone", it comes back about 6 months later as if by magic.
Personally, I think the answer is that the master database is probably owned by the Post Office, and it is very difficult to correct. Until very recently we were receiving Pizza Deliveries for next door every couple of months, and it turns out that my detached house, and "1a" next door which was built in 198x on a slice of the garden of this one, were listed by the Post Office as a pair of flats in a single unit. Go figure! (*)
(*) In the end it took a pitched battle by the new owner of next-door over a period of months to get the database updated, including multiple mis-assumptions by admin staff when they had emails stating the simple facts sitting in front of them. But that persistence of inaccurate information is to me an example as to why we should keep information about us get in database-state information banks to an absolute minimum.
People believe bollocks when the bollocks emerges from a computer, and that causes practical problems for real people. So keep computers in the dark.
I am annoyed this morning.
Once again my washing-up water - the first hot water I have used in the kitchen today - is running warm then cold then hot.
And the cold water is running warm then cold.
This probably means that the last people, who renovated the house, did not insulate the water pipes where they pass through the zone where there is underfloor heating, and the water standing in the pipes has heated up.
A small annoyance due to lack of sweat applied to the detail. But one that is noticeable and about which I can do nothing practically.
A video I made whilst we were putting Postsaver protective sleeves on part of the stock of fence posts.
It is a really excellent product, which should more or less double the length of life of a fence post, and takes little more than a minute to apply once you are set up.
But make sure to buy direct from the manufacturer, because retail outlets will gouge you comparatively. The starter kits are particularly good value.
And they do trade accounts if you have a repeated need.
The feature photo repeated below shows an alternative way to create a long-life fence - use a repair spur and keep the wood off the ground completely.
There are different views about Planning Consultants, and whether they should be used.
This is a short example of a Planning Consultant offering superb advice, that most of us self-builders would perhaps not think about.
I have just received a Planning Permission, after 3 months of engagement with the Council. It is a commercial Change of Use but the lesson applies to self-builder permssions. We received our permission, but on the last morning the Planning Department applied an unacceptable Planning Condition which threatened the whole project. The Planning Condition clearly violates several of the basic tests.
This condition had not been mentioned in the previous months of consultation, and I did not see it until it appeared on the Decision Notice. At this point the Planning Application has been "determined" (ie decided and frozen), so the Condition cannot be modified without a further Planning Application or an Appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
The problem is that a Full Appeal gives the Inspector the opportunity to reopen the basic Planning Application, and modify it - which I do not want.
The recommendation from our Planning Consultant was:
1 - To apply for a Variation of the unacceptable condition, which might be accepted, then...
2 - To Appeal the Refusal of the application for the Variation if we need.
The advantage is that we then if needed we can get a Determination by the Planning Inspectorate on the narrow point, while keeping all the other acceptable aspects of our Planning Permission out of their scope.
The Learning Point
As self-builders, we think about discharging Planning Conditions at the end of the build process. The same process can be used to vary them before we start building. It takes extra time and a fee, which is smaller than a Full Planning Application fee for a new dwelling, but does not run the risk of reopening the entire Permission to change.
The appropriate form on the Planning Portal.
Explanation of Planning Condition Variations on the Government Website.
A perennial problem with walls is water or other staining.
Yesterday I was walking past a fairly new wall, built perhaps 15 years ago. There are an interesting number of white stains now running down the wall.
What is the cause? My candidate is probably the weep holes, and also the 'shadow' from the road sign (which should be a few inches further out). I wonder if it also cheap bricks, or an insufficiently considered design. In any case, if stains show up this prominently so soon, then something on the detailing is not right.
What do you think, and what would you do differently?
( I have uploaded these at full size so you can zoom in.)
I know there is no such thing, but this blog is supposed to be about Details.
How to build an attractive looking bin store to deal with dustbins that breed like Statutory Consultees in the Planning process?
Here is one option used locally. They have used traditional perforated blocks that we are all used to from the 1970s.
Here is something similar from Kevin McCloud's The Triangle development, using Gabions.
The McCloud version suffers from being in the eyeline whenever the householder leaves the front door.
If you have any good examples, please post in the comments.
Update 2/2019: This was the one I built. In this pic it still requires cleaning with brick acid, and the coping stones adding. Here we are testing a dustbin for size.
I thought I would post a plan of a terraced house I ran across recently.
The small estate of houses was built in 2004. Typical but pleasant modern houses, but this 2.5 storey terrace has a notably efficient layout.
In the overall footprint of 5m by 9m (including external walls) includes 1047 sqft, and includes:
Large lounge 12' x 16'.
Dining room 8' x 10' attached to 10' x 7' kitchen
Three double bedrooms (one ensuite)
A reasonable amount of storage
Here is the Plan:
That circulation space is minimised to around 10%.
That each bedroom has space for bed + chair + desk, even though bed 3 at 9' x 11' is tight.
That there is space for a workdesk on the middle landing should it be needed.
That the layout is reasonably flexible.
Should it be desired, bedroom 2 could be made into 2 singles of 8'5" x 8' each, which is still larger than most 3rd bedrooms even in semi-detached houses, or could have its own ensuite included.
Looking at the plan a decade later, I think there are only three things I would change:
Remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room to create an open space, and insert a small breakfast bar.
Add a roof window or two to the rear aspect of the Master Bedroom.
Make changes necessary to comply with more recent regs - especially around disabled access.
What do you think?
This is the first in a series of postings I will be making whilst on holiday in Sydney and Melbourne, mainly about architectural details which may be of interest to Buildub readers.
My favourite way to meet a new city is to do what I call a random walk, followed by a random journey back to my starting point on public transport.
I will be posting photos and descriptions of anything I find of interest, whether internal or external.
Cycle Locking Point
This first is ... If I am right ... a place to lock your bicycle.
Zebra Crossings are as clear as in the UK. Cars stop, pedestrians keep going. But the Sydney version of a Belisha Beacon is joyous in its bluntness.
You can also see that the Fun Police have reached Australia. I will have a bit more to say about the Sydney police force, and priorities of pedestrians and motor vehicles later.
In the UK we have moulded concrete pavers with grids of bumps to place next to, for example, pedestrian crossings, such that visually impaired people can tell by touch where to cross the road with the help of signals, or where they are approaching the edge of a kerb.
This is the strangest item of street furniture I have met here. The Sydney version is grids of metal studs, which could almost have been designed as a slip risk in humidity or rain, especially for visually impaired or blind people
in places there are even signs warning that the studs are a slip hazard. Quite how these are supposed to keep blind people safe is an explanation I would love to hear. Or perhaps I have misunderstood?
Comments are, as ever, welcome below.
Having seen and debated Calvinmiddle's 120 square metre 2 bedroom bungalow, I was musing on how large a dwelling actually needs to be in floor area - intending no particular critique of Calvin's decisions here.
In these days of £1500 per square meter build costs and soaring energy prices, should we take Occam's Razor to all those (possibly) extra bits we are adding to our self-builds? Rather than learning creating larger rooms and learning to do that one extra building trade ourselves, to save budget, is it possible to make different decisions and simply build less house instead?
Let me bring some personal experience to open a conversation about efficient use of space, as I think I have a good example of a well-designed and well laid out 2 bed bungalow, on quite a difficult site. Here is an aerial view and site plan, which is fairly tight, and built to the boundary on the North and West sides, preventing insertion of windows in those walls.
The history is that in 1960 this was a cowshed. In 1970 it became an architect's studio. By the 1990s the architect had moved out, and it was extended and became a 2 bed studio (literally) bungalow.
I don't, unfortunately, have a formal floor plan to hand, short of scanning in an architect's drawing, but the total floor area is 70 sqm, or 750 square feet, measured by adding up the floor areas of each room. So here is a very rough sketch plan from my log book:
Now 70 sqm is not very much area to most of us; but the place is surprisingly spacious, and everyone who has lived there loves it. This is the accommodation in detail, with brief notes:
Entrance Hall: 3'11 x 11'11 (1.18m x 3.62m)
Kitchen: 11'11 x 10'6 (3.64m x 3.19m). Space for dining table.
Lounge: 14'8 x 14'9 (4.46m x 4.48m). Velux roof lights.
Master Bedroom 1: 14'6 x 11'4 (4.42m x 3.45m).
Bedroom 2: 10'4 x 11'9 (3.16m x 3.59m).
Inner Hall: 3'10 x 7'6 (1.16m x 2.29m). Boiler/washer cupboard. Cloak cupboard.
Shower Room: 6'7 x 6'9 (2.00m x 2.05m) plus 4'0 x 3'0 (1.23m x 0.92m). Velux roof light. Walk-in shower.
If I compare that with the "London Space Standard", which is the document about suggested reasonable minimum house sizes that politicians are currently rabbiting on about, we are quite close to the recommended minimum areas for 2 bed single storey homes:
Space required for 2 bed 2 person single storey dwelling = 61 sqm.
Space required for 2 bed 3 person single storey dwelling = 70 sqm.
Space required for 2 bed 4 person single storey dwelling = 74 sqm.
The document, which is based on mapping out what furniture is needed for the number of people in each room, is well worth a read for self-builders wanting to explore how layouts can be organised.
Where then can self-builders save on space, and budget?
I'd suggest the design of my bungalow is efficient in these areas, and that two ideas to use are double use of space, and illusion to make spaces feel larger than is the case:
Saving on circulation space - ie corridors and hallways. The Inner Hall and Entrance Hall total around 4.6 sqm, which is under 6% of total floor space. Since there is no wall between the entrance hall and the kitchen, part of that is also perceived to be part of a larger kitchen/dining area.
The space budget is spent where most time is spent - the lounge, at 20sqm, is generous and square, with what amounts to a glass wall non the south side, and no dark corners due to Velux roof windows at the north side.
A perception of space is helped by middling high cathedral ceilings (13ft) in the principal rooms.
There are mistakes as well - in this case the lounge is a little to open to view by passers by on the pavement if they look in a particular direction.
What have you done well or badly in your own project? How much dedicated circulation space did you create?
And there's a whole conversation to have about changes in circulation space from early times (no corridors) to 20C (corridors to avoid draughts) to 21C (no corridors since doors are now draught proof). I'll start a conversation about that another time.
I've just run across the concept of the "Solar Loft", as proposed for a new 'Eco' development at Bickleigh Village in Plymouth, by Bill Dunster's ZEDProjects operation and Social Investment Company Cornerstone.
This is a space outside the superinsulated perimeter on the top storey of a house, with insulation in the floor, and polysolar panels for the roof. These are less efficient than traditional solar panels, but also let a proportion of the light through, and have been suggested elsewhere as a way of mitigating the roast-freeze cycle which occurs in many conservatories.
The development is a high density development on the majority of a somewhat larger site - 91 houses in 3.06Ha, with 0.63Ha of woodland left untouched. Most of the houses are 4 or 5 bedrooms. The 5 beds currently advertised are £350,000.
I like that strategy, though it leaves teeny-tiny back gardens. The Planning Reference is Plymouth Council 12/01504/FUL and 14/00135/FUL. The latter is currently under consideration, and would increase the proportion of larger homes in response to market demand.
There are also live-work units and a building to provide employment for local people as a mini assembly plant for the buildings on the site, which will hopefully roll over into some sort of eco-construction hub for the future. They have done quite well in negotiating a good reduction in the various Section 106 obligations while leaving a notional 20% profit margin.
I have not tracked down whether Community Infrastructure Levy will apply, though in most of Plymouth that is only £30 per square meter for residential anyway.
I have attached detail of the solar loft for one house type, as included in the Planning Application. As shown, this drawing is copyright the ZEDfactory, and is excerpted here for critique and review.
A Solar Loft is a way of using the "low" part of an asymmetric (for South Facing Solar reasons) roof for a benefit without having to add the extra height required to give a fully recognised useable room. The brochure for the development describes it in marketing-ese:
At the top of the house a semi-transparent PV roof creates a stunning ‘solar loft’, allowing atmospheric dappled sunlight to flood into the highest room with the best view. The room is designed with good levels of cross-ventilation to avoid overheating and provides an ideal growing space for keen gardeners, or a relaxing sunspace for those more inclined to putting their feet up with a cup of coffee.
(Ed: From that, you'd expect it to come with a built-in elf riding a unicorn through the velvety green fields of Arcadia.)
It's also an ideal growing environment for your own heat demanding, high humidity requiring crop for quiet sale on the local market. I wonder how many of the people will insulate the roof to stop the heat showing, use the power on tap from the panels, and put something else in there to grow that is not tomatoes?
At least that would reduce the number noisy helicopters circling overhead with thermal cameras, since the technology will no longer work.
I like the idea, but I think that in the circumstances, I might be more inclined to hoick the whole part of the roof up by about 600-900mm to be level with the ridgeline, and gain a semi-sun-sheltered roof terrance, with the solar panels divided into two sections.
If there were privacy concerns for neighbours, then I'd perhaps put a vertical piece of polysolar "window" down the top 1-2m of the wall too.
It could be like a balcony in a seraglio; more complex to build than a solar loft, but perhaps more attractive as a foil to the small garden.
What do you think?
(Photo quoted from Bickleigh Eco Village brochure.)
I think that the pleasure of living in a house is at least as important as its design and performance. The ability to get that right in advance from mere conversations with a client seems to me to me to be the core skill of a good architect.
This ebuild blog is a conversation around this theme, named for a famous quote from Ludwig (really) Mies van der Rohe.
My conversation starters will be details of buildings, but also details of how things are built, that I find interesting or attractive. My hope that others will respond with their agreements and disagreements.
I have started the blog after a pointer from an article "Whither Fashion" by Caliwag from July 2013 to a book "A Garden and Three Houses" by Jane Brown and Richard Bryant. The book is about a small scheme called Turn End by an architect - Peter Aldington - who was unknown to me. Peter and his wife Margaret built their house themselves in 1963, and have lived there for half a century.
My own project is to find out how to build an energy efficient 2 or 3 bedroom studio bungalow as a viable build-to-let, which is also a home prospective tenants want to live in. I have one that works well already, which I will write about in the future, but can one be built for a reasonable budget in 2014, and how?
This is also a process of finding the right details and setting them in the right context.
To add some meat to the first post, here's Peter Aldington himself talking about the house he and his wife built in 1963 and have lived in for half a century.
Watch out for the discussion about sun and light, but also their perspective on sleeping in your living room for 50 years. And that hanging staircase goes to a storage loft.
Here's a frame from the video. Yes - those are bifold doors 1963-style. Ecclesiastes was right, there is nothing new under the sun.
(Note: I will embed the video if I subdue the technology, but for now please follow this link).