Bringing existing houses up to a high standard of energy efficiency is a much greater challenge than with new ones.
This particular example of self build eco renovation is outstanding because of the way it will achieve a net zero carbonbit of a slippery fish. It tends to mean that a building uses no carbon (oil, coal, etc) to heat it (meaning in a 'net' way). It usually ignores the carbon which goes into building it (the embodied energy). See the page on Zero Carbon? rating while at the same time reaching CSHCode for Sustainable Homes. A delightful tool for assessing how green a home is. Unfortunately now withdrawn (2015) by this short sighted government. level 6. Not only that, it has been enlarged from the original two up, two down layout to provide extra rooms including an attractive new second floor studio with a roof which supports a large solar array of both PVPhoto Voltaic. referring to the generation of electricity from sunlight and thermal panels. The house will benefit from a number of green features –
- Extremely high insulation levels to all the external surfaces – approximately 200mm of insulation – mainly a special high grade of expanded polystyrene (Neopor) and also Warmcell and mineral fibre. Triple glazing to the windows.
- A very high level of air tightnessA measure of how leaky a building is to air. In other words, how draughty it might be. There are now standard fan pressure tests to check how air tight a house is and the Building Regulations have minimum standards for all new houses (L1A – Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings (England)). A much higher degree of air tightness is covered by the Passivhaus standard using pro clima Solitex membrane.
- Over 5 kWkilowatt - a measure of how fast energy is flowing. e.g. electricity might flow through an electric kettle element at the rate of 2 kW (peak) of PV generation which will be attracting a good feed-in tariff.
- A 48 tube array of evacuated solar thermal collectors feeding into an 850 litre Solus CL water accumulatorusually a large water tank used to store surplus heat (from say a wood fired boiler or thermal solar collector). see the page on Heat Stores tank. Also good for feed-in tariff
- A Lenius wood pellet stove also feeding into this accumulator.
- Heat reclamation from the ventilation system, similar to the PassivhausSee more on the Passivhaus standard. The PassivHaus Institute has pioneered a standard for low energy buildings. It includes very low energy usage and ways of achieving this. The word is derived from the idea of buildings which are fundamentally low energy and passive solar heated rather than using extra gadgets to heat them. See Passivhaus for the UK branch of the organisation. model.
- Glazing is carefully positioned to get daylight down into the centre of the house and window openings have generous reveals so that the maximum of light, view and solar gain is achieved.
Materials have been chosen carefully to be low embodied energythe total amount of energy it takes to make a material (or a building). See more on embodied energy and or reused/reclaimed –
- Many of the new walls are of unfired clay blocks to reduce embodied energy
- Recycled newspaper insulation
- reused maple flooring
- sweet chestnut exterior cladding to the top floor
The design work has been carried out by the owner, John Christophers of Associated Architects. The building was originally a fairly normal early Victorian house with brick walls and slate roof. It has now been imaginatively extended to the rear and upwards to the attic room which has good sound insulation from the rest of the house and fine views over the city. There is a new, gently curved stair well and interesting shuttered openings which interconnect rooms. Occasionally glass flooring has been used to further help natural light penetrate into the house.
What is really interesting is the degree of care taken to remove cold bridgingthis is a pathway where heat can easily escape (or get in) through some part of the structure. It is usually caused by some element of structure such as a steel lintel or wooden studwork. Also known as a thermal bridge. see more on cold bridging and to create air tightness. As some of the insulation has had to go on the insides of walls and some on the exterior it has meant isolating sections of structure from each other by cutting out slices and then inserting the insulation. TeploTies have been used as wall ties because of there low thermal conductivity. Windows generally have plywood liners. The breathing air tight membrane (Solitex) has likewise had to weave around parts of the structure in many places. This is especially true where the new extensions meet the old building.
A novel way of preventing cold bridging by existing brick cross walls which go down into the ground has been developed. The walls are largely cut away at ground floor level and supported on reinforced concrete beams so that insulation can be inserted and the degree of bridging is greatly reduced. (see below)
There are plans to create a double storey[for the purposes of part B (fire) of the Approved Documents to the Building Regulations] this includes - (a) any gallery[for the purposes of part B of the Approved Documents] - A raised area or platform around the sides or at the back of a room which provides extra space. if its area is more than half that of the space into which it projects; and (b) a roof, unless it is accessible only for maintenance and repair. height sun space to the rear of the house which should extend the pleasure of garden enjoyment further into the spring and autumn and create an extra skin of insulation in the winter. More information at Under the Sun