Categories
Construction Ecoretrofit

Sign of the future…

All the estate agents I have seen in Brittany list the energy certificate in the window alongside the house details. Some of them even include predicted emission levels for the houses.

French estate agent's window

Certainly makes some of those cottages look tricky to keep warm.

Categories
Ecoretrofit Green roofs sustainability

Will making my house green save me from the zombie apocalypse?

I was pleased to see lots of discussion of the zombie apocalypse on twitter the other day, all sparked by this blog from the US Centre for Disease Control http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2011/05/preparedness-101-zombie-apocalypse/ So I was thinking about how the zombie apocalypse might affect my business of eco retrofitting, pretty badly I think and I am not sure a bicycle is the right mode of transport to escape from zombies. However I did realise that many of the measures you take to improve the environmental performance of your house would also help you come the zompocalypse.

Draught proofing and insulation are essential to cut noise that would reveal your presence to any lurking zombies and also help reduce the chances of any airborne infections. Traditional methods of keeping your house warm, heavy curtains, shutters etc will stop any tell tale flickers of light from your zombie hideaway.

Evading zombies is dirty work so coming home to solar thermal water heating means you can wash the smell of fear right off, providing you can get a safe source of water that is. Perhaps a pond on your green roof could help with this? Of course a green roof could also provide some much needed fresh veg to supplement your diet of looted cans and dried food.

Assuming the zombies have knocked out the sewer and drainage facilities things will be getting pretty smelly so a SUDS system with plenty of reed beds will be an excellent way of processing your waste while reducing possible flooding issues in your neighbourhood.

I also guess that the zombies will have taken out the power network so you will need some way to power your SOS signals for help. Photovoltaics on the roof should solve this as well as providing some power for low energy lighting to illuminate your weapon stripping.

Not sure what happens in the winter, it always seems to be hot in zombie films but I am guessing that even if the zombies do die out power and fuel will still be scarce so ground source heat pumps would be a good way of heating your hideout. If you meet with others and develop a compound you can start to add other measures: a combined heat and power plant would maximise what fuel you have and perhaps a wind turbine wouldn’t attract interest from the zombie hordes.

In summary therefore, going green will help when the zombies come! Next up ‘The rise of the machines, will biodiversity help us fight back?’

Categories
Ecology Ecoretrofit Green roofs

Green roof update

Just a quick one, not finished yet but the roof is progressing nicely, we have the sedum in place for the middle of the roof and drainage channels laid out in pebbles across the rest of the roof.

Nearly there

Now all we have to do is add in soil from the garden in the gaps so it will grow a range of native plants. As this will involve a fair bit of lifting we are going to get some people round for a green roof party and they will all help moving the stuff about.

Categories
Ecoretrofit Green roofs sustainability

Eco retrofit part 2: Insulation

Work on the house is ongoing and I have been looking at ways of adding extra insulation into the house without taking the walls down. I think if we are going to do the major insulation work it will have to wait for the summer. However we took a picture of the house in the recent snow which was useful for pinpointing areas where the heat was escaping.

The back of the house showed a lot less snow on certain sections:

Particularly under the window section and to the left and right of the windows. The loft was recently insulated under a government grant scheme so was pretty good at retaining heat. The easiest way to get insulation in here was to lift the tiles (they are all interconnected) and put in new insulation. When we did this we discovered some old insulation, this had been installed about 25 years before and as well as being pretty thin by today’s standards had been used for nesting by squirrels! We decided it was best to take this out and start again, luckily there is a lot of government sponsored insulation available at the moment made from recycled bottles so we had plenty of cheap stuff to replace it with. We have managed the right hand side of the house so far and will begin work on the rest when there is a nice dry weekend and some scaffolding available, temperatures in the house have again increased after this work.

Part three: green roofs

The next step is to work on a green roof. We photographed this large area during the snow:

You can see a lot of heat is escaping where the boiler outlet and the skylight are. We think a green roof will provide an attractive and eco friendly form of insulation. There is a smaller flat roof on the other side of the house that we plan to experiment with first before tackling this one. May take until the summer but will update when I can

Categories
Construction Ecoretrofit sustainability

Eco retrofit

I have been working on a really interesting eco retrofit project for the last few weeks. The house was built in 1922 as part of a Daily Mail Ideal Home Village for that year and is timber frame with lath and plaster walls and cedar tile cladding.

The house has cavity walls which are currently uninsulated the foundations are fairly shallow so there is a space of about a foot and a half under the floor which is divided around the room walls. There are lots of air bricks giving access to this area so it is pretty cold and draughty under there.  The loft has been fully insulated using one of the government grants.

I have three phases of work planned on the house:

Phase one – Quick fixes

So far I have been working my way round each room filling gaps and sealing holes using a combination of decorators caulk and expanding foam where necessary. The foam is to be avoided if at all possible as it is a pain to work with and a pain to clean up after both from your hands and around the holes, it does help with bigger gaps though.

I have renewed the draught exclusion materials round all the doors and added extra where necessary.

To find all these gaps I have been using a smoke tester, it’s a bit tricky for the whole room but for the doors it shows exactly where to add extra draught stuff.

Phase two – Insulation

As mentioned the loft has already been done but the cavity walls and other areas need to be looked at. This is the tricky bit I think, how to get stuff inside the walls. On a brick cavity wall the answer is simple, drill some holes and pump in loads of foam however this isn’t deemed possible for a timber frame house. We have contacted several cavity wall insulation companies and they won’t even come round to look at the house. I suspect this is because they can only get grants for basic installation and it isn’t worth their while tackling anything more complex. I also believe there are some unresolved damp issues that can come about when you fill the entire cavity so at least we will be avoiding those.

So far I have stuck insulation to the inside of the walls in a few limited areas where this can’t be seen. Next I will begin lifting tiles on the lower roof spaces and fitting insulation here. I am putting off the main part for the moment as it is a bit daunting. We think we will have to take out the inner wall of lath and plaster and then add insulation to the cavity and then replacing the lath and plaster with plasterboard.

Phase three is environmental enhancements, more details soon.