Tag Archives: Ecology

Reclaimed materials in side return extension in Hackney

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.

Nine months in and this green roof has been thriving

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:

The flowers are growing well including the grape hyacinth
The flowers are growing well
A really good selection of wildflowers has sprung up
A really good selection of wildflowers has sprung up
Maybe I should have made the middle access a little narrower
Maybe I should have made the middle access a little narrower

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 alex@ecoalex.com

 

 

Green roof in South London

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:

The roof is on top of this single storey extension
The roof is on top of this single storey extension
The first layer of the green roof, a fleece to protect the waterproofing and retain some of the water.
The first layer of the green roof, a fleece to protect the waterproofing and retain some of the water.
Then we added a drainage layer to encourage free draining.
Then we added a drainage layer to encourage free draining.
Next is the root barrier and then special substrate
Next is the root barrier and then special substrate
We planted the roof with sedums, widlflower plugs and sowed a selection of wildflower seeds
We planted the roof with sedums, widlflower plugs and sowed a selection of wildflower seeds
The finished article
The finished article
It should grow and develop over the next few years until it reaches maturity.
It should grow and develop over the next few years until it reaches maturity.

Dreaming of a green Christmas?

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

Recycled Christmas crackersAs 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 Kids rocket ship toyfun 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

Home energy monitor and heating control
Owl Intuition E energy monitor

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.organic eco friendly t shirt

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

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.

The parrots are back

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.

Lizards at large

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.

Ecobuild

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.

CEEQUAL Assessor Course

Finally completed my CEEQUAL assessor course last week. This was something I signed up for when CIRIA made me redundant last year but with one thing and another I hadn’t managed to have free time to coincide with a course in London. Still the work I have been doing in the meantime meant that I was a bit more of an expert when it came to the ecology section.

I was pleased to discover that most of my civil engineering knowledge remained intact. In fact working on the M25 widening project meant I had much more experience of projects in action than previously.

They pushed us quite hard over the two days, not surprising really given the breadth of topics we had to cover. The section on energy seemed a bit vague at first but I suppose I had the advantage of doing a course on energy the week before (see last post). I think for a lot of companies it will be the first time they have thought about energy and carbon during construction and particularly in use.

The assessment divides into 12 categories starting with the project management which underpins it all and then looking at different areas of environmental performance in a civil engineering project. Ecology, for instance  deals with all the improvements you can make and also avoiding any problems you can get like Japanese Knotweed and how they are dealt with. The methodology is a bit like the waste hierarchy, you score highest for not removing environmental features but you can make things back by introducing mitigation strategies and making improvements around the project.

Having learnt all this I am eager to get started on an assessment either for Ecology Consultancy or as a freelancer so let me know if you need one doing. I can also assess a project quite quickly and let you know how it might perform.