Daisy Farm Eco Build
It was just what we needed in every other way. That is to say, a south facing plot well above flood level, with planning permission, in the area we were looking at. It has since been a battle getting planning permission to build an environmentally sustainable house instead of the 19th Century pastiche required by Sedgemoor District Council. Eventually we won and now we are getting the technical plans draw up. The time lag has not been wasted, though. We have attended several eco seminars and green events, been able to do lots of research on the products available and had time to clear the site. We have also attended a building with lime day, and we are going to do a clay plastering course at CAT, Macynlleth in September.
Now it is spring 2009. The foundations and ground works have all been laid. Our building inspector made us use much more concrete than we wanted but at least we know the house will not slide down the hill.
The plan is to build the house to PassivHaus standards. This means that the house is so well insulated and airtight that it will not need anymore heat other than body heat and the heat given off by appliances when they are used.
The house will be constructed with a locally sourced Douglas Fir timber frame. The walls will be straw bales. The windows, triple glazed (unfortunately from Sweden, as UK manufacturers cannot provide to our specifications). The roof will be pantiles, recycled from the house that stood on the site originally. The exterior of the walls will be rendered with lime and the interior wall plastered with clay sourced from the site itself. Our main toilet will be a composting toilet, sadly imported from abroad. We have installed a rainwater harvester which will supply the second toilet, washing machine and garden irrigation requirements On the roof we are installing a solar thermal panel to heat our water. This will be augmented by a log burning stove, the only other heat source in the building. In order to keep the heat inside the house there will be “whole house heat recovery ventilation”. This removes the heat from the exhaust air leaving the building and adds it to the incoming fresh air. Maybe, if funds become available, we will have photovoltaic solar panels fitted on the roof as well.
The plinth wall is complete. It is constructed from stones recycled from the previous house and the inner leaf is made of Foamglas, a product made from recycled glass, which is good insulation and very strong structurally. The timber frame is being built this month (April) and will be erected in early May. We will then be ready to build the straw bale walls. The bales were harvested last August, and, despite the wet summer last year, are dry. They are being stored in a friend’s barn until required. In June we will be asking for volunteers to come and help build the walls. Having helped at a couple of other straw bale builds, I can assure anyone interested that it is great fun.
If all goes according to plan we should have completed the build by the end of this year. Let us hope that this summer is drier than the last two.
Early May saw the arrival of the timber frame on the back of a flatbed trailer, expertly backed down the lane by the sawyer Rupert. Then on 7th May six of us and a crane driver started to assemble the large pieces of timber stacked on the side of the site.
In just 7 hours the frame was up and the corks popped for the topping out ceremony. Wow, it was twice the size I was expecting it to be. We had a panic about the planning permission. I ventured up to the top and measured the height. What a relief. It was within a few inches of the permitted height. Our frame builder, James (Hedge) Ross, of Cutting ‘Edge Frames had done a superb job. Everything fitted perfectly, with the occasional nudge from a large rubber mallet.
The next few weeks saw us adding joists and temporary floor boards to the first floor and boards and rafters to the roof. Then we covered the rafters with Pavatherm Plus, a breathable insulation board, which is supposed to be waterproof as well. Just to be on the safe side we have covered this with a breathable roofing felt and positioned all the roof battens. This has taken Andy and myself, along with Hedge and a lovely local builder called Rick and his colleague Dan several long days to do. We also built in the top plate, which will be where the wall meets the roof. This had to be insulated before covering with Pavatherm and so I reluctantly used rockwool as it was available without having to wait.
When we were not clambering about the roof there were the window and door bucks to cut out and construct. These will be fixed into the straw bale walls and will hold the window and door frames when they arrive. One Saturday, friends came to help us do this work and other tasks that needed doing. With the house now wrapped in tarpaulins, it is water tight and ready for the wall to be built.
Now it is July, the June deadline for the straw bale walls has been long passed. The preparations have taken us much longer than we had anticipated. However, the first consignment of bales has arrived. This should be sufficient to build up to the first floor. The volunteers have been booked for the 11th July and we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather.
For the latest images of the now complete house, please go here