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StrawBoard

straw board

Straw board is made from waste straw with usually about 2% MDI adhesive binder. In the past the reputation of straw board has suffered mainly due to people trying to skimp on the thickness, a bit like with hardboard. It can make for very economical internal surface linings with good thermal and […]

Retrofit

‘Under the Sun’, a Victorian terrace house in Birmingham is an outstanding example of bringing a fairly typical old building up to 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 […]

Suppliers

Where can I buy recycled plastic sheet made from kids wellies? At Smile Plastics of course

The world of suppliers to the building industry is a very mixed bag varying from the excellent to the appalling. When you are purchasing building materials it is of course good to go in with a positive attitude […]

Staircase design

Parana pines, much used in staircase construction

In terms of embodied energythe total amount of energy it takes to make a material (or a building). See more on embodied energy the use of timber in staircases is far better than metal. However the timber should be sustainably sourced and be FSCForest Stewardship Council (who […]

Material prices

Although many of the builders merchants are a bit coy about publishing their prices, partly because of their obscure discount policies, here are a few price guides for building materials from suppliers on the internet. This may help with pricing up smaller self build jobs. With larger jobs you may be able to negotiate discounts.

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Joinery / fixed furniture

Sourcing timber

Sourcing sustainably produced timber and manufactured timber building products requires checking the following –

Was the timber sustainably grown? How far has it travelled? Does it contain chemicals such as adhesives or timber treatment?

The FSCForest Stewardship Council (who accredit timber) see their database Woodmark or the PEFCProgramme for the Endorsement […]

Wall construction

see also Brick Cob Concrete blocks Hemp / Lime Insulating concrete forms Rammed Earth Solid timber Steel frame Stonework Straw Bale Ziegel blocks What’s the most eco-friendly wall?

Well there are several angles on that. Some of the most important aspects of walls are their insulation values, their air-tightnessA measure of how leaky […]

Aluminium

Aluminium tends to be used as a waterproof barrier in buildings because of the slow rate at which it oxidises (rusts). It can be treated to stay nice and shiny for a decade or two and can also be colour coated to last quite well. It’s other attraction in building work is the ease of […]

MDF

Part composted MDFMedium Density Fibreboard ready to be spread on farm land

stability, workability and low embodied energy

Made from wood fibre which is heavily compressed (in spite of it being called Medium Density Fibreboard) and bonded with some (or possibly no) formaldehyde adhesive, MDF is kind of similar to but at the other […]

Bandodle house

October 2009

On the Hill of Bandodle, Aberdeenshire, stands a beautiful selfbuild timber frame house designed by architect Genevieve Jones for her family. Incorporating high levels of insulation (in the form of 350mm of shoddy obtained from Elgin woolen mill) and mainly locally sourced materials, Larch, Douglas fir and Caithness slate, the house also […]

Hedgehog Co-op

Hedgehog Self Build Co-op, Hogs Edge, Brighton

March 2015

One of Brighton’s examples of community self build which started in the late 1990s, this development of ten timber frame houses is based on the Walter Segalrefers to a simple self build timber frame form of construction pioneered by the architect Walter Segal. see details of […]

Chewton Mendip

A very interesting terrace of three houses, on a curved road junction, has recently been completed in this Somerset village.

Some of the main features of the design are:

Very high insulation levels provided by insulating concrete forms (ICF) with added exterior face insulation Structural insulated panel (SIP) roofs Eco-slab ground floors and upper […]

PVC

PVC is a difficult subject because the criticisms have come from several distinct directions

those who find the chemistry of producing PVC dangerous. GreenPeace has campaigned long and hard on this issue for two reasons – PVC is oil based and therefore dangerous for several reasons it involves shipping oil around the world and this […]

Cement and concrete

There are several problems with cement

the huge amount of energy which goes into making it because of the high temperatures needed in the kilns. (However it is worth noting that if you are designing high thermal massthis is about how much heat something can absorb – so it involves its specific heat capacity […]

OSB

Oriented strand board is an excellent alternative to plywood provided it is woodmarked and sourced as locally as possible.

The word ‘oriented’ refers to the fact that the strands (or flakes) of wood are slightly more orientated along the length of the sheet than across it, making it slightly stronger (in tensile strength) in that […]

Plasterboard

Problems of disposal

Plasterboard has been something of a problem for eventual disposal because of the high levels of sulphate and the plasterboard industry has generally been slow to implement a recycling strategy.

Indeed the plasterboard manufacturers can hardly be said to be transparent about their policies and in the past and the almost national […]

Low Maintenance Design

the Forth Bridge, a symbol of constant maintenance. (however the latest paints claim to last longer)

The ecological cost of constantly repairing and maintaining houses is enormous and it makes sense from all angles to build with a view to low maintenance. At the most basic level it means you have more money to […]

Alterations & Fashion

‘Energy use’ is usually associated with how much energy is used to construct a new building. However, this is only part of the story. Most buildings get altered and repaired and redecorated a considerable number of times during their lifetime and taken to an extreme, some houses are constantly having ‘makeovers’. This can vastly increase […]

Findhorn Foundation

October 2009

See the Findhorn web site

The Findhorn Foundation near Fores in the North East of Scotland has a couple of interesting areas of eco-housing and a whole approach to living lightly on the earth including 750kW of electrical energy from 4 wind turbines recently installed for Findhorn Wind Park Ltd which is the […]

Self Build Courses

4 day Walter Segalrefers to a simple self build timber frame form of construction pioneered by the architect Walter Segal. see details of the systemThe architect who devised a simple timber frame self build system (often simply known as ‘Segal self build’). see more on the Segal method self build course Celebrating the legacy, 30 […]

Avoiding Pollution

see also

River Pollution Waste Recycling

Various types of pollution will occur at the three stages of a building’s life. The degree of pollution at each stage can be minimised by good design.

Construction

During construction there will be five main sources of pollution (including indirect CO2Carbon dioxide is a gas which is given off […]

Building Regulations

July 2015

What are the regulations for?

See the English government web site on Building Regulations. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are listed below. Slowly an increasing number of details in the regulations are diverging between the countries.

Building Regulations deal with whether the building is built properly and is safe and energy efficient etc.

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