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October ’09

Jim and Jo Monahan are nearing completion of their passive solar house in Spinningdale, Sutherland. This is a timber frame,self build project which utilizes roundwood for many of the structural members. This is a way of using timber at its maximum strength because it is not cut across the grain. The timber framing shows up well in the gallery which overlooks the main solar heated living area.

This central area contains a masonry stove which they have built and which will soon be clad in a decorative finish. Masonry stoves include stoves such as Kakkelovn and are highly efficient because they burn timber quickly at high temperatures and then store the heat within their mass. This is made possible by the extended flue arrangement which runs through the masonry. Jim has run workshops on masonry stove construction after going on a course in Denmark.

The other main form of heating is from a woodburning Lohberger stove in the kitchen which supplies heat to a DPS thermal store which in turn heats the domestic hot water and the underfloor heating. Also connected into this system are thermal solar panels ( you can just see the pipes to the left of the stove which are about to be connected to the panels). They reckon to run the stove for about two hours a day in winter.

The ground floor itself is made of terra cotta tiles on limecrete on foamed glass on rammed earth. This is designed to keep embodied energy  to a minimum and to supply thermal mass. In fact no concrete has been used throughout the project. More thermal mass is gained by the use of unfired Errol bricks in many of the internal walls (visible behind the stove). Jim and Jo have been influenced by the book A Pattern Language in the way they have gone about designing this lovely house. Almost all the timber has been sourced locally and great care has been taken in making the house low impact ecologically

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