I went to visit an extension in Kennington which has the biggest domestic green roof I have built. There are some very big skylights so it isn’t all green but it looks great. This first picture shows the rear extension with some rather fine timber cladding, you can see the plants poking over the top of the coping stones: The combination of rain and sunshine we have seen this summer has been really good for the plants, even if people haven’t been so happy. I missed the peak flowering of this roof but there were still plenty in bloom on Monday. The clients daughter has a bedroom window looking out onto the roof and has been enjoying the developing scene. The skylights really bring light into the house and the kitchen looks even bigger than the space the extension added on. You can see some of the plants waving in the breeze around the sides when you are having dinner.
A side return infill extension with an industrial style. Extensive use of reclaimed materials, high standards of insulation and a wildflower green roof. We completed this project late on last year working with Clements Design as the architects. The project aimed to turn a cramped kitchen into a spacious area for cooking, eating and socialising. There is an industrial and sustainability theme to the project, the materials used are often from or designed for factories. Electrics are contained in galvanised metal conduit and the floor is concrete. Walls are exposed brick, both reclaimed glazed brick and the existing London stock bricks revealed to the world. The large glass panels to the roof draw in light to what was once a dark area and bring out the rich colours in the reclaimed wood cladding. Though the materials could be seen as austere they are softened by the contents of the room that reflect family life, there is space for a large wooden toy stove, a comfy sofa and a gorgeous oak dining table with mismatched chairs. The large rear doors mean the garden can be seen and accessed easily from the house, the doors can be flung open in the summer for barbecues. The green roof will develop over time but already has wildflowers peeking over the parapet and they can be seen swaying through the glass roof. The project was also designed in conjunction with the neighbours and they share the party wall and the box gutter. Sustainability was a key part of the client’s aim for the project. Reclaimed materials were used wherever possible. All the bricks removed in the demolition stage were cleaned and re-used onsite to build the new structure. Internally there are two walls of glazed bricks reclaimed from a lift shaft in Kensington. The other walls are the original brick exposed and insulated on the outside where appropriate. The bi-fold doors are triple glazed with a u-value of 1.09 are factory finished for long life and are made from environmentally sourced timber from sustainable forests. The heating is underfloor and utilises the existing condensing boiler, three Nest controls were added to the system to control this and create two new heating zones in the house. The wood (for drawer fronts, shelves and cladding) is from a reclaimed wood specialist in Guiseley, Leeds, called Machells and is cut down from Yorkshire Victorian mill joists. The large pendant lamps are reclaimed from a 1950’s factory in the Stoke area. The table was made in Leeds from British oak 35 years ago. All the shelf brackets and drawer handles were made in England in foundries using all traditional methods. All lighting is LED, even filament style traditional bulbs are actually LED. The green roof is part plug planted and part seeded with a mixture of wildflowers, meadow plants and some sedums. The roof will flower through most of the year and provide habitat for insects and foraging for birds amongst other biodiversity benefits.
I went to see the roof I built in Kennington last month and took some photos I thought I would share. I wrote about this one last year showing the build up process to a green roof. I was particularly pleased that the insulation we put on as an added extra has made a real difference to the householders, the side return was previously a no-go area in the cold winter months but has now become habitable with the added warmth. Anyway here are a few photos to illustrate how well the roof has been growing over the last nine months: Overall I am delighted with the roof and the clients are really pleased too. The roof has already developed really well and should develop further over the next few years. The roof should reach maturity after three years but different plants will dominate in different years and seasons. If you want your own green roof give me a ring on 020 8133 0190 or drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a quick photo update from a roof I made in March. This was put together with Optigreen substrate, drainage etc and seeds and plug plants from Boningale Nurseries. It is growing well with lots of plant growth for the first year. Recent rain should really encourage growth.
Last week I completed another green roof in Streatham. It is on the rear of a really interesting house, a 1930s semi that is getting a complete eco-makeover from the owner. He has insulated the walls inside and out with wood fibre and remade the roof in solar panels and that is just the start. All Stephen’s neighbours find it hard to believe how warm the house is without loads of heating! Anyway, last Wednesday he set aside so I could come along and help him build a green roof, here are the photos:
Last week I completed a ‘green’ green roof. Not only was it a green roof with plants increasing the amount of green space in central London but we also managed to use it to improve the energy efficiency of the house we were building it on. The customers were really interested in using a small roof area they had to create a wild area of land to increase bio diversity. They are not far from Roots & shoots the environmental education centre and wanted to recreate some of the wildlife areas there. We planned out the roof to include different heights of soil, a wide range of native plants and areas of logs and brick dust to create habitats for invertebrates. A week or two before the build I was on a CORE retrofit course learning about different types of roof insulation. This included a method where the insulation was placed above the roof’s waterproofing. This was perfect for this job as the roof already had excellent waterproofing and the plan was to lay the green roof on top of this. A quick call to the customer to ask them and they confirmed that the rooms below were cold so we added this to the project. The project was planned over two days: On day one we moved all the materials through the house, erected the scaffold tower and began laying the insulation: There was quite a lot to move but it all went pretty smoothly. Day two started with us collecting some wood from the previous nights storm to create a log pile for invertebrates on the way to the site, oh and a full English for the guys helping with the work. We made short work of installing the water retention
I am certainly dreaming of one, I enjoy Christmas as much as anyone but I do worry about the waste that goes on at this time of year. Presents are great but sometimes there are rather more than anyone needs, especially in a big family. Like many families we have instituted a one present per adult rule and this has certainly cut down on unnecessary pairs of slippers etc. However cute little nieces still need a present each and we still need to get a few presents for those close to us. So now we have reduced what can we do to re-use and recycle the presents, along with getting some nice eco friendly presents for everyone. I have tried to find a few things that can help with this. Eco friendly Christmas paraphenalia As well as recycling your Christmas wrapping paper make sure yours is made from recycled paper, while your at it get some recycled crackers too. You can make your own Christmas decorations quite easily or buy ones made from recycled materials and all good lights these days use LEDs, saving you energy and reducing fire risk. I have listed a selection in the products section of the website that you can buy online. Green toys for kids To be honest kids toys are pretty amazing these days and you aren’t going to distract them entirely from computer games and plastic fun but there are lots of interesting alternatives out there that you can at least supplement them with. Every kid loves to climb in boxes and a cardboard rocket ship could be even better, a wooden racing car is a much healthier alternative to a plastic one for a small child, and with fewer chemicals. Kids also love creatures and creepy crawlies so a pond dipping kit or a bug jar could make them happy. More details of these eco friendly toys here. Thinking further ahead you could get a bat box and an id book and see what bats you can attract when they come out of hibernation. Gadgets for grown ups Everyone likes a gadget at any time of the year and Christmas usually brings lots along so why not get a few that help reduce energy use rather than increase it. I have been going on for a while about my Owl monitor and heating control and I still really love it. You can impress people by showing them your houses energy use on your phone and impress yourself by turning the heating on when you are on the bus home. I recently started looking at products in B&Q as well as NHBS and Nigel’s Eco Store and they have just started to stock Lightwave products. These link up not just to the heating and electricity but also all the sockets and light switches in the house so you can create a real smart home and control the lights and all the appliances from a remote, your pc or your home. They sound great, if you buy some let me know how you get on. How about saving water? A water pebble makes a cool little gift, put it in your shower and it helps you reduce water usage as well as looking funky. If too much water is a problem for you at times, why not get a green roof to soak some of it up? If you have a wood burning stove you really must get an eco fan to go with it. These sit on top of the stove and circulate warm air around the house. They are made of two types of metal so it rotates when it gets hot. I hope these gifts have wetted your appetite for a green Christmas, I have my eye open for some more and will add them in when I find some good ones. Updates Eco friendly gifts for her Some choices for the women in your life, mum, sister, wife or partner. I have tried to pick a range of items that any woman would be pleased to receive. Love the rainbow turbine t shirt stylish with with an eco message as well. Eco friendly gifts for him Some choices for the men in your life, dad, brother, husband or partner. I have tried to pick a range of items that any man would be pleased to receive. Cufflinks and skin care may seem a bit dull but these are a cut above your average and the skin care is certainly not a generic body shop I don’t know what to buy you box. Alex
For the last year or so I have been working on and off on an older property near Stockwell. It’s a lovely house but it does get pretty cold and draughty, especially in the harsh winter we have been having. Last year I fitted some secondary glazing on the stairs and in the bathroom reducing the draughts from these and the residents were very pleased with the difference it made. However I have been itching to have a go at the very draughty hallway and stairs, if we can improve the temperature there it should make the whole house warmer. I did a trial on different methods of floorboard sealing last year and concluded that Draughtex worked the best, the flexibility meant it didn’t fall out when people walked on the floor. So with all the cold weather this winter the client decided it would be a good idea to proceed with draught proofing in the hallway so I got my chance. First I did some sustainable movement of materials using my bike, quite pleased with the amount I can get on it and move around. After this I worked on the front door which had loads of draughts coming round and through it. First I used brush pile and some epdm strips to seal round the leaky door. It took a while to get right, especially making sure the door shut properly afterwards. Then I had to tackle the letterbox, several previous attempts to seal this by the owner hadn’t worked so I was pleased to see the Ecoflap at the Ecobuild exhibition. The inventor was very enthusiastic and it looked like a good solution so I ordered one. It looks pretty good and is doing the job so far, also seems far more robust than other letterbox covers. To finish things off I needed to seal the rest of the floorboards and round the skirting. There were a few boards starting to fall apart so I had to replace those. As expected the Draughtex was pretty easy to install and did a good job of sealing the rest of the floorboards. A combination of beading for the larger gaps and builders caulk for the rest sealed around the skirting boards and finished the job. So, what difference did it make? Well, the first day on the job was cold and windy and I was freezing in the hallway getting the work done. I finished off the floorboards on Friday in pleasant conditions, then when I opened the door I realised the temperature had dropped and it was as cold and windy as the first day. So pretty pleased with the work and the client is chuffed too. We are monitoring the gas bills but it will take a while for that to reveal any differences. Now for the rest of the house.
After last weeks exciting pictures of the roof in Hertfordshire there has been even more growth: Even the local wildlife is taking a keen interest: There are also some fungi appearing, will have to get the mushroom book out and see if these are edible ones: It looks like the roof is fairly comfortable with itself now and should ebb and flow over the next few years developing the right type of plants for the conditions. If you want one on your roof I would be happy to build it, full details of my services and contacts here www.ecoalex.com
I am giving a short talk at the London Green Fair next month on building your own green roof so I have been looking around for examples. They are starting to appear all over the place now. Near my home in Lambeth there is a lovely community roof on some garages where they grow wheat and the South bank centre put up a lovely roof last year with allotments. Up in North London I came across this roof in a front garden, the best looking bin cupboard I have seen. I also think this could be applied to front garden bike sheds as well and make them a much more attractive part of the streetscape, maybe they could put one in Bonnington Square in the future to go with the current metal one. As Ecoalex I will certainly be recommending similar ones. I am quite looking forward to the talk and will hopefully generate some questions and debate. I will also have a mini green roof with me so you can see how they are put together and imagine what you might do so come along and see me on the Saturday. If you can’t make it but would like some help building a roof get in touch with me at Ecoalex.