I live in this house with my husband and our two daughters. In the last 13 years I have been fortunate enough to have combined my two passions – architecture and sustainable building – into a full time career. My architectural practice only works on sustainable projects and The Green Register, a not for profit, trains hundreds of construction professionals in sustainable building practices every year.
We also open our home under the Bristol Green Doors scheme.
Our primary motivation for adding the sustainable features to our house renovation – including energy saving measures – was to reduce the carbon footprint our family has on the environment. Our family is trying to move towards one planet living, which is in every aspect not just energy, but includes waste water and food production too. The costs savings over time were secondary, although the generous feed-in tariffs the government introduced were a factor when we decided to put PV on our roof.
Both my husband and I are architects and prior to moving to Bristol I had my own practice in London. Having advised our clients on the benefits of sustainable construction over the years, I wanted to practice what we had been preaching. We started looking for a house where we could do some of the work that we had been teaching clients about.
Our 1930′s house was due for a serious upgrade and we took it back to its bare bones and upgraded everything, resulting in a 73% reduction in carbon emissions compared to the unimproved dwelling.
The property is a 1930s detached solid brick house. We bought the house in 2003, renting it out to students for a couple of years. In June 2005 we started the refurbishments on it and didn’t move in until January 2006, when the major work was completed.
Before the refurbishments the house was very suitable for external wall insulation as it was freestanding, had a big overhang and the windows could be taken out. We were able to overcome all the technical problems with external wall insulation, so the house was perfect for insulating externally. We like the proximity to buses and shops as well as to the downs. However, it was very run down and hard to heat, with many of the students using fan heaters. It had lots of drafts, damp and mould, as well as some dark places not lit by natural light. Overall the comfort levels were poor – demonstrated by the previous owner who had stuck polystyrene tiles on the walls because it was so cold!
Along with insulating external walls and the ground floor we also insulated the roof during our loft conversion. Another key aspect of the renovation was the use of reclaimed materials, using reclaimed timber for the ground floor. Our PV and solar thermal systems provide a lot of our electricity and hot water in summer months.
• Condensing boiler (Vaillant Ecotec) and double panel fin radiators
• Double glazing: low E coated, Argon filled, high performance, timber frame windows by Rationel
• Eco materials used include natural oils and natural paints
• External wall insulation using 80mm Polyisocyanurate insulation on top of the existing render and new 3 coat render system gives a U value of 0.22W/m2K
• Ground floor insulation using 150mm Cellulose insulation and airtight membrane
• Some low energy appliances
• Low energy lights with a mixture of LEDs, CFLs and Halogen/incandescent
• 1.2kwp Photovoltaic panels
• Reclaimed materials: timber on ground floor and existing boards on 1st floor, new French oak on the 2nd floor, linoleum and slate in bathrooms and the utility room
• Loft conversion with roof insulation using 200mm mineral wool insulation (between and above rafters) and an airtight membrane
• 4m2 Solar thermal panels used from May to September (the boiler is used for the remainder of the year)
• Water saving devices include: low flush and dual flush toilets, water butts and behaviour change
• Air pressure test: 8.2 Ach/hr at 50Pascals
• Conservatory has been replaced with a new timber framed double glazed conservatory, for maximum passive solar gain
The PV and solar thermal have worked particularly well. We often have the same amount of electricity coming in from our PV as we are expending and are sometimes in credit when we use less electricity than we produce. We can turn the boiler off totally in mid May and just use the solar thermal for hot water until about September time, when we use our boiler as a top up. We are down to about a third of the gas that a house of this size would consume and about a quarter of the electricity. We think more about our electricity use now, but sometimes it is still an ongoing battle!
I love everything about our redone house. I love the light and the fact that there are no draughts. The double glazing has sorted out the noise from buses going past outside. The house is now comfortably warm and probably has a positive impact on our health.
We had our house valued after the refurbishments and the value of our property has more than doubled since buying it in 2003, although it is hard to tell whether this is due to the eco measures or to the market (or a combination of the two).
I never thought we would do as much to the house, in terms of renovation and energy saving measures, as we ended up doing. It just proved to be a really good house for what we did and we just kept doing more than we had originally planned.
All the insulation makes it a really warm house to live in. It is very satisfying to know we have got hot water without using fossil fuels and just using our solar thermal panels.
We have finally (after 10 years of planning) replaced our old leaky but south facing conservatory with a beautiful timber framed double glazed structure. It captures just as much passive solar energy as the old conservatory but holds onto it for longer. We have installed a low wattage fan from the conservatory to our living room so that we can direct all that lovely carbon neutral energy into our home when the sun shines.
Updated on 24/02/2013
The Green Register
The Green Register is an independent, self-funded and not-for-profit organisation whose principal goal is to promote sustainable building practices across all disciplines of the construction industry.
It was initiated by SuperHomer Lucy Pedler who is an architect designing buildings that have a low impact on the environment. The Green Register also provides training and literature for other organizations on sustainable building issues and offers a register of construction professionals working in the field. Lucy regularly opens her Bristol SuperHome to the public.