Having got the bug for designing and building new homes, we decided that 20 years in the middle of the Thames was enough and a move to ‘Terrafirma’ was the order of the day. By happenstance, a derelict bungalow came up for sale so we snapped it up and, inspired by the trail blazing Huf Houses on Channel 4’s Grand Designs series, we decided to build our own version, thankfully without the sometimes-snide observations of the venerable Kevin McCloud.
Once again in lightweight concrete blocks, with prefabricated concrete floors and clad with Bolix products. Vast areas of glass, front and back, all triple glazed. This was our new home. Whilst building it, another very poorly built bungalow next door came up for sale so we decided to take the plunge with another new build to sell on, using similar techniques but a more conventional, less radical design.
Design and build
Truly bitten by the ‘design and build bug’, we then were tempted by a large demolition project on a private estate in Esher. The existing house was a dilapidated ‘Arts and Crafts’ nightmare: a dark place with leaking and draft-ridden leaded windows; a house which would have cost much more than its ultimate value to restore and make habitable and economically viable. So, once again, with the brave Marcin and his team, we decided to push the boundaries a bit – well quite a lot actually.
This time, a grand house built entirely from Beco (other brands are available) which are large hollow recycled polystyrene blocks, filled with concrete and steel reinforcement bars. Again, using pre-cast concrete floors and featuring ‘wet’ underfloor heating throughout (which we’d also used on the last two houses). The extensive glass bifold doors were triple glazed, unbelievably heavy for our boys to fix but helped their fitness! Much grunting and cursing – “kurwa jego mać!” (no, I won’t translate!).
Thinking about energy efficiency for such a large house and with a very poor piece of land to work with, we decided on a ground source heat pump, the heat for which is drawn from the soil from a vast grid of water-filled pipes laid around 450mm below the ground level. The temperature of the soil is constant at that depth and a good few degrees higher than the ambient air temperature.
Added to that was an air source heat pump (for which, at the moment, some local authorities with the cash are offering grants – check the internet as terms vary considerably) and solar panels. We ended up with not only an exciting contemporary design but also, as the subsequent owners discovered, a large house of some 639 square metres (about 6,500 square feet) that costs next to nothing to run and has an incredibly low impact in terms of harmful emissions.
“It’s a wrap”
A common term in filmmaking meaning the completion of a project but can also apply to some careful planning and execution of good insulation practice, methodology and materials.
Proper insulation – the “warm wrap” – in any situation will lead to energy efficiency, lower running costs, and less climate threatening emissions. Of course, at a cost, but for the long term, it’s worth the investment and can readily pay dividends by producing warmer, more stable ambient temperatures, cheaper running and safer homes and can, over a relatively short to medium term, become self-financing.
Definitely to be recommended.