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I am a self-employed archaeologist, working from home. I have had green views for a long time, and am involved in various initiatives, including the Green Party, Transition Black Isle and the Cromarty Allotments and Gardens Society. I also started and still manage a monthly community market in Cromarty.
I very much like living in Cromarty, especially in my listed (B) Georgian terraced house. Before the bridge at Inverness was built Cromarty was very remote and for many years was very run down, with many of the houses in poor condition. Today it has a thriving and socially mixed community and is an increasingly popular place to live in and visit. I wanted a property in Cromarty that I could retrofit to reduce CO2 emissions and make comfortable and energy efficient to live in. I have a keen interest in heritage issues and liked the challenge of seeing what I could do with such a property. The house had been cheaply and badly repaired in the 1970s, but by now was in need of refurbishment and had extremely poor energy efficiency.
The house was built in about 1815 with sandstone walls. It now has listed status in a conservation area. I moved in to the property in 2006 but I have lived in Cromarty altogether for about 17 years. The house was cold and dark and had no insulation so was almost impossible to heat, using both storage heaters and radiators off a Baxi coal fire. The front of the house faces NW, with frequent strong winds and driving rain off the Cromarty Firth and the front door, and badly fitting, cheap sash windows were extremely draughty. The front wall, solid stone with cracked concrete render, was holding the damp. The back of the house faces SE but there were only a few small windows, so inside it was dark with little natural light and no real chance for solar gain.
The house was extensively insulated with insulation installed in all external walls, ceilings, loft and the roof. Other measures included double glazing, solar thermal panels and a wood burning stove. A new glazed and insulated extension was added to the back to let in sunlight and warmth, and on the front, the front wall was re-harled in lime and a porch added to protect the front door. The former concrete asbestos tiles on the roof have been replaced with natural slate over a breathable membrane and openings made for new dormer and skylight windows. Old, leaking concrete flashing has been replaced in lead.
• External walls and sloping top floor ceilings insulated using 50mm Kingspan, then plasterboard replaced and plaster skim finish
• All windows were replaced. Double glazing in new windows and new traditional sashes made for existing windows – with secondary glazing internally
• New fully insulated porch
• Floor insulation in extension and porch; underfloor electric heating in porch.
• Loft over bathrooms and kitchen fully insulated
• All appliances A rated
• Low energy lighting throughout – many now LEDs
• Solar thermal panels
• Thermal store- serves hot water and heating, heated by solar, electric and multifuel stove. New central heating and all radiators have TRVs
• Water saving devices include rainwater diverter to water butt
• Wood burning stove also heats thermal store
• Rear extension provides better aerodynamics to the house and passive solar gain
• New front porch protects entrance
• Front wall re-rendered in lime so it breathes, and drains and rainwater goods remodelled – this has dried out the front wall
I wasn’t originally going to lime harl the front wall but I’m pleased I did it as this, with new drainage has dried it out and made a big difference to the air quality in the home. The rear extension has made the house lighter and warmer. The thermal store system works well, heating 11 radiators and three heated towel rails over three floors. The insulation has also transformed the house
I am very glad to have done the refurbishments and very pleased with what I’ve got at the end. It’s nice to have a greener house. The process was not an easy one and it was more difficult than I thought it was going to be, but well worth doing. I get a lot out of it – I have a much brighter and warmer house, which I positively enjoy living in. It is nice to feel that I am doing more and that I can demonstrate the potential of old buildings to provide 21st c. comfort.
Difficult to say, I like all aspects.
I have reduced the height of the front wall against the road and planted a hedge which acts as a good soft windbreak.
Updated on 21/11/13
The work did require Listed Building consent. In my case the walls had been lined out with plasterboard about 40 years ago so we could just strip them back and insert Kingspan into the framing. People I know who have either bare stone walls with architraving or original lath and plaster linings will have a problem. I don’t know what the answer is to that unless there’s a thin but highly effective insulation now that can be applied like wallpaper?