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.
We have nearly finished the extension we have been working on for the last few months in Hackney. The walls, roof and floor are all in place and there is just fit out for the inside and the green roof to go on top.
I have joined the Flash programme funded by the Institute of Sustainability. It is supposed to help me take advantage of the low carbon economy http://www.instituteforsustainability.co.uk/flash.html I guess I will find out about that over time but the first workshop was useful. I went to a retrofit workshop at the Mayville Community Centre in Islington. This was still being built so the venue was interesting but it was a bit noisy inside. It does look good though: After a general introduction we were put to work on some plans that we had brought in. This was particularly useful for me as a non-architect I got to learn a lot from their perspective, hopefully they learnt something from me as well. The first exercise involved us identifying thermal bridges from a plan and certainly got us thinking. In the second workshop I got to discuss one of my projects, a cold Victorian terrace and the input from the other delegates was invaluable I would especially like to thank Margaret Reynolds for her input. Alex
I have been having quite a long chat with Roz from Little Purple Dot about windows. She has sash windows with brushes installed but still finds they are draughty. Obviously the most effective thing to do would be to add secondary glazing or replace the windows, however secondary glazing looks a bit ugly and new windows are pretty pricey. This took us to discussing curtains, shutters and other more traditional (and cheaper) solutions and she pointed out this report from Historic Scotland which had some interesting results. Insulated shutters and glazing produced the best results but thermal blinds were not far behind. I always have an eye for a bargain and the blinds in my bedroom need replacing so I am going to give them a try and see what difference it makes. Further updates when they arrive. If you are thinking of improving the performance of your house have a look at my eco retrofit site www.ecoalex.com
My ring necked parakeets have returned. In London the reaction to these is a bit mixed, some people like me get quite excited, others are a bit non-plussed or even hostile. I like them though, each year they come along for about a week. They make a load of noise ( I think this may be why some people don’t like them) and spend the week stripping the Indian bean trees outside our flats. By the end of the week the whole street will be covered in bean husks and they will be gone. I think the transient but regular nature is what appeals to me, they are only there for a short time but usually herald the start of warmer weather and cheer everyone up. I first saw them only three years ago and discovered the next year when posting photos to my flickr account that they come back at the same time each year. It’s the nearest we get to the changing of the seasons in central London. Also cheered me up as I was back from the dodgiest client I have met in a while. They are supposed to be worrying about lizards on their site but are very reluctantly paying lip service. This morning they were a little like naughty schoolboys because I caught them digging a trench in an area they shouldn’t have been. No damage done and they assure me it won’t happen again but you never know. I prefer dealing with the parrots.
Lizard catching season has started already and I have been quite successful catching them on a site in South East London. So far I have caught 9 and some judicious strimming has been corralling them effectively. We have a splendid new residence for them in some specially restored grassland. Hopefully we will be able to clear the rest of the lizards from the site in the next five or six weeks and the council can get on with building a school on the site.
Had lots of fun at Ecobuild last week. Far too much going on to keep up with everything but still pretty interesting. The one disappointment was the lack of many companies with any actual eco credentials. The overall feeling of most people I spoke to was that most of the exhibitors were selling the same products with a thin veneer of greenwash to try and boost sales. Honourable mentions to the companies really trying to make the planet a better place such as the Good Homes Alliance, UK Green Building Council, Action Sustainability and Ecology Consultancy. The last one obviously being a shameless plug as I organise some of their marketing and was on the stand on Thursday. Managed to attend a few of the talks, these were divided between interesting stuff in the arena and conference areas with high profile speakers and more practical stuff in the conference rooms on BSF and CEEQUAL. I learnt a lot more from these. Freebies certainly seemed to be well down on last year although the exhibitor drinks were reliably well stocked as always. Best freebie of the month was a bird box I got at BSEC the week before.
Off to Ecobuild tomorrow. I am on the Ecology Consultancy stand on Thursday but heading along Tuesday and Wednesday to see if I can drum up some business as a CEEQUAL assessor, drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for one. Looking forward to catching up with friends and contacts I haven’t seen for a while. Also looking forward to a little more knowledge than I witnessed this morning from the editor of a national magazine who described sustainability as being about reducing carbon emissions, and maybe some other stuff that wasn’t really important.
Learning the assessment method and putting it into practice.