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We are Penney Poyzer and Gil Schalom. Penney has been known as an environmental activist and campaigner for many years and presented BBC2’s first environmental show for householders No Waste Like Home. Gil Schalom is an architect specialising in ultra low energy design for both retrofit and new build. Penney and Gil have won many awards for their home which they share with their daughter Jasmine aged 9. In 2012 the couple received an award recognising them as the pioneers of the energy retrofit movement. They began their journey to retrofit their Victorian Home in 1998.
We began our retrofit journey back in 1998 because we realised that whilst new ecohomes were being built nothing was being done about the millions of existing badly performing homes across the UK. We bought a poorly maintained Victorian semi which was a former student house. It had no central heating, was covered in mould and a lot of polystyrene tiles.
Our motivations were to see how far we could achieve autonomy in energy, water and food through retrofitting these systems into an old house and to see how far we could integrate these life support systems. We have achieved autonomy is some areas such as rainwater management and central heating. We continue to improve our home and to challenge our own ideas in the pursuit of living the lowest impact life that we can.
The house is a classic semi-detached, VIctorian villa of brick and slate construction, built in 1898. We purchased the house in April 1998 for 84,500. It was in a very run down state and had been a student house for at least a decade. There was no central heating, just very expensive direct electric heating, damp, mould, spoiling brickwork, subsidence – in short everything was in a very poor state.
Our External insulation on the side and rear elevations of our semi-detached Victorian villa not only radically decreased energy bills and increased comfort but also transformed the poor quality, damaged bricks on the side and rear elevation.
Internal insulation on the front elevation preserved the street view and maintained the Victorian character.
We have also installed triple glazed sliding wooden sash windows on the front elevation and added a high performance front door.
We have completely insulated and improved air-tightness measures to attic, walls and extensive cellar.
Our ultra efficient kitchen also features recycled and reclaimed materials including cupboard fronts made from recycled yogurt pots, shelving made from recycled water bottles, CDs, banknotes and stamps and the kitchen carcass made from 100% reclaimed victorian floorboards.
Our wood burning boiler provides us with a Renewable Heat Incentive return of over 2k per annum and our solar thermal panels provide 50% of annual hot water needs.
Heat-recovery units in the 4 wet rooms reduced humidity, recovered 80% airborne heat preventing any mould or damp.
The rainwater harvesting system together with garden sustainable urban drainage, ultra low water use goods such as toilets, dishwasher and washing machine mean that we send no rainwater to storm drains and that our daily water consumption is the lowest in the UK.
These improvements have transformed the comfort, reduced bills and improved internal air quality without compromising the charm of our classic Victorian Villa.
The (former) Department of Energy and Climate Change acknowledge us as the pioneers of the eco retrofit movement and we hope that we continue to inspire other owners of hard to treat homes.
The refurbishment has transformed the comfort and affordability of our former nightmare of a home and provided a healthy living environment for occupants.
The refurbishment – which has taken 18 years to complete – has provided us with a comfortable home and place of work. It has won us numerous awards and kudos and has had an incalculable positive affect on our careers.
Our favourite features are the newly installed triple glazed, wooden sliding sash windows that have transformed the front elevation of the house and made a tremendous difference to comfort and enjoyment. Being able to open up the sashes in the south facing sitting room and eating lunch at the table with sunlight pouring in is just lovely, it feels like being on holiday.
We have recently installed new wooden triple glazed sash windows and high performance front door. Also further improvements to airtightness measures in cellar.
Updated on 02/09/2015
GSD Architecture is a Nottingham architect’s practice specialising in environmentally responsible domestic retrofit, extensions and new-build.
Principal Gil Schalom has nearly 20 years’ experience in this sector and already has three registered Superhomes to his name, including his own Victorian retrofit the Nottingham Ecohome (the second ever to register), with more in the pipeline.
Gil has helped clients with anything from a report, to a single room renovation, all the way up to deep retrofits with large extensions and brand-new houses including to the EnerPHit and full Passive House energy standards. He is a multi award winner including a ‘Highly Commended’ at 2015’s LABC awards for a radical energy retrofit and loft conversion of a bungalow and a ‘DECC Retrofit Pioneer’ award. Insulation, air-tightness and ventilation are highly interdependent so, whether new-build, partial or a multi-phased refurbishment, Gil considers these at the outset, along with design details that will significantly enhance both performance and looks.
For fuller information, explore Gil’s CV and portfolio here.