I work for Ordnance Survey and assess a lot of buildings, particularly in London. It is quite inspirational, seeing lots of different building designs in my day job. I have also drawn inspiration from my masters in Advanced Energy and Environmental Studies which I completed at The Centre for Alternative Technology.
I think we’re pretty green – we gave up flying in 2005 and we use green electricity and green gas. For one holiday we had to decide between taking the car which would cost £110 in diesel or taking the train which would be twice as much. In the end we decided to go on the train because it was probably better for the environment and it also meant I got to spend more time with my daughter Millie. So we are doing the best we can to be green.
When we were introduced to Passive House Standards we thought why live in a house that wastes energy if you can have a house that doesn’t? We just wanted to achieve the best design we could with this house while also using recyclable materials.
The whole point of retrofitting the house was to inspire other people to be green whilst also showing that you can have a really nice lifestyle and not have to contribute in a negative way.
This house was one of 13 houses built on Walters Way in 1985/6 by the now famous architect Walter Segal. He developed a system of self build that people could manage themselves; therefore the properties were built in standard sizes with standard materials. The houses are built on piles on the ground and on stilts so that you have access underneath the house.
We were only the second people to live in this house and it is unique. There is not another house like it anywhere because there aren’t many Walter Segal houses and because this house has been pushed towards the Passive House standard.
During the refurbishment of the property we added a small extension and concentrated on insulating the main fabric of the house. This included super-insulating everything and triple glazing windows and doors. We also rebuilt and insulated the roof and then added solar panels to it.
• 12kw Condensing boiler (smallest available as secondary heat source to Solar Thermal heat store)
• Draught stripped and overhauled all windows with FSC timber frames and aluminium cladding
• External wall insulation – the existing walls were insulated with 200mm Pavatherm wood waste and lime rendered (U value 0.18). External walls in the new extension have a U value of 0.17
• Floor insulation consists of 22mm Isolair sarking board, 100mm Pavathern boards, 100mm existing glass wool and 30mm Gutex wood fiber board resulting in a U value of 0.15
• Green roof
• All A+ appliances, including the fridge, washing machine and an induction hob
• All existing lighting is low energy and all new lighting is LED
• Whole house Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery system
• Two storey Passiv solar chimney on the south for passive heating in winter and active cooling in summer
• Reclaimed piece of teak from a lab used in the kitchen
• Electricity from renewable sources via Ecotricity
• Existing roof is insulated with 100mm glass wool, 100mm Hemp and cotton batts, 100mm Pavetherm and woodwaste resulting in a U value of 0.14, some warmcell insulation used in the extension roof
• Solar thermal panels, used primarily for renewable space heating in the winter and linked to thermal store and ground level underfloor heating
• 2kWp Solar PV system
• Sun pipe in new extension
• Triple glazed windows and doors throughout, from Finland, have a U value of 1.03
• Underfloor heating (Jupiter) from Germany
• Water saving devices include; ES4 4 litre siphon flush WC and water saving fittings to taps
• Energy smart meter
The house is very cool, keeping an ambient 20-22°C and with the doors open we are actually lifting the heat up. One particular design feature of the original property is the big overhang on the roof that actually blocks the really high hot sun in summer. That design feature is really important and when we redid the roof we made sure to keep the overhang.
We are really pleased with the aesthetics of the house and proud that we actually produced something of beauty. We took lots of the original elements of the house and brought them through into the design so that when you stand back from the house now and look at it, the house fits in with the other houses. We wanted a house that looked nice as well as being energy efficient.
Another benefit is the noise control of the new design. In the wintertime when we are locked down with all the windows sealed, it is silent. Even in the summer you get hardly any sound coming in – we had a street party one July and I could feel the house moving from the bass out in the street but couldn’t hear it in the house!
I get the most satisfaction from the solar thermal because I can actually see that working.