Green sky thinking week

I was very excited to hear about Green sky thinking week at Ecobuild last month. Of course when it came to signing up for events I found it a lot harder to actually fit people in, I would definitely have enjoyed the pub quiz on a Tuesday but that’s football night and I can’t let that slip. I eventually managed to fit in two events towards the end of the week and headed off to them on my bike filled with excitement.

First up was Beautiful green: Luxury with an eco conscience, an event by BACA architects hosted at a Mott MacDonald office in the city. This was a very smart building, so smart in fact that you had to park your bike down the street out of view. The event was all about Serenity a house they are planning at the moment

It looks pretty cool and the couple building it want an extraordinary house and they want it to be environmentally friendly, they might even try for Passivhaus which could be a real challenge. It looked like a really good project to be worked on and they are certainly happy about it. There was also a good article about the house in The Guardian that day.

As well as seeing all the plans for the house they talked about there other work, including lots of flooding work. I was really impressed with their awareness of engineering issues and how a building interacts with the environment, the effects of climate on it etc. I hope the people suggesting that the Southbank Centre add a green house to their building to cook audiences in might learn a little something from this approach.

The second event I managed to get to was Carl Turner Architects Slip House event on the Friday Morning. This was in Brixton so another easy bike ride. The first thing I noticed was it was next door to the Tree House which I visited on Open House day a few years ago. Seems there are a few free plots along this road and the planners are obviously inclined to allow more interesting developments in the area.


The house certainly makes an impression, some of the pictures of it at night look amazing. It was featured on Grand Designs so had a lot of interest at Open House, this event was more like an exclusive session of that. We got the house tour and then we also got an enthusiastic presentation from Carl about the house, construction etc which was fascinating. The work done on insulation was very impressive, no windows on the sides of the house means they have put in lots there as well as in the roofs which are very thick. The other thing I learned which was really interesting was that you can get mixed panels of Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaics:

Panels 2

Not only do these save space but the water in the hot water panels can be used to cool the PVs on sunny days and help them run more efficiently, sounds like a great idea. Carl also showed us his electricity use on his Owl intuition and it was about half mine in a two bedroom flat. His use includes heating with a ground source heat pump and an office for three people on the ground floor so very impressive unless they sit in the dark and eat raw veg.

The one thing I did find hard to envisage was living in such a tidy house with so little clutter, look at the kitchen here:

Kitchen 1

I know they had tidied up for an event, but still it was incredibly neat. If I lived in a place like this I can’t imagine how many piles of things I would have lying around.

So I really enjoyed the events I managed to get too for Green Sky Thinking week, hopefully I can get to more next year,

The Owl and the boiler part 2

So after much enjoyment of the new energy monitor and a new found fascination with how much energy the fridge uses I embarked on installing the new boiler control at the weekend.Image

This little gadget replaces the standard wall thermostat with a new one that is supposed to be more efficient. As Ecoalex I really thought I should give it a try. It was fairly easy to install, after turning off the power I removed the old wall thermostat and exposed the wires in the wall. Of course my wiring didn’t match the wiring colours mentioned in the installation booklet but a quick google search for the same set up helped here and I connected the new unit. After a careful bit of fiddling to get the covers on we were done.

Then I had to connect the thermostat to the internet via the Network Owl device. Once I had updated the firmware this was very straightforward and the whole installation would probably take half an hour if I were to do it again, maybe less.


Now it is all online I have a secure website which shows me what electricity I am using and what the heating is doing in my flat. More importantly I am able to programme the heating from the website or a smartphone. As I have a fairly new well insulated flat in Central London my heating bills are fairly low but anything I can do to reduce them further is a bonus. Also this is the sort of gadget you used to see on Tomorrow’s World so it is very exciting to have one at last. As well as setting the programme I can turn the heating on and off remotely using a smart phone. This means if I am out at the theatre or stay out unexpectedly I don’t need to heat the flat. Alternatively if it is freezing out and I am on the way home I can

Imageturn on the heating before I get there and arrive at a warm flat.

I can also input holidays into the system so it turns off the heating when I am away automatically. As well as this I get to see what electricity the house is using on the same screen or on the smartphone app (to the left). So far I am very pleased with all the new toys and they seem to work very well. Once it has been installed a while I should also be able to get a better Idea of usage patterns and see what I can do to reduce my bills. Currently I only have 3 days data so it isn’t too exciting.

I also hope to use it to show to Ecoalex customers and illustrate how they might save money on their bills as well.

Electricity monitor and heating controls

I am having all sorts of fun today with new gadgets. I went to Ecobuild recently and talked to the good people at Owl about their electricity monitors. I have been meaning to get an electricity monitor for ages , especially as I regularly recommend them to other people. Anyway, I thought it was high time I got one and stopped procrastinating.

Then when I chatted to them they showed me their new gadget for controlling the heating this replaces the old wall thermostat with a new one that is connected to the internet. This allows you to control your heating usage from a computer or your phone and as a by product it also uploads your electricity usage in real time to your account so you can look at graphs, analyse your usage at different times of day etc.

I got it in the post yesterday and have been setting it up today. First I set up the electricity monitor

IMAG0643Then I connected the Intuition device to the internet and the electricity monitor, this was slightly trickier but I got it right second time.  Now my home is filled with devices telling me how much electricity I am using, I think when the fridge is off they may now be the biggest energy user in the house. I guess I will get over my excitement soon but it is quite cool to see my electricity use on a website:


The next step is to change the boiler thermostat and connect that up to the system as well. I need to turn the power off for that and fiddle with mains wiring so I will wait until my partner is around and she can drag me away when I electrocute myself. A full update on that tomorrow.