No stairway

April 18, 2008

The stair running up the centre of the house is made from a sustainably sourced 19mm Larch composite board. It has a central void to allow light down from the roof light to each of the floors into the centre of the plan.  It’s also held off the walls with stainless steel pins and thus allows more light down around the edges and architecturally separates the stair from the walls making feel more like a piece of sculpture than a stair.  The boards were cut on a C&C machine that cut out each of the component parts to within 0.1mm and then assembled as a kit of parts on site. It was constructed by Tin Tab, based in West Sussex –  The handrail is made by cutting a simple groove in the outer surface that guides the hand as you walk up or down.  We therefore avoided the need for a handrail on the outside/wall edge.   I realised I hadn’t yet posted any pictures of it finished, so here we go.


Rain, rain, rain

March 21, 2008

It might not be great weather for the bank holiday but there’s a silver lining from where I sit.  It’s filling up the rain water harvesting tank. Now it’s all up and running and working as it should we are happily flushing the toilets with rainwater.   In the event of a drought (you never know) or power cut the tank reverts to being fed by the mains water.The tank, pump and controls were supplied by Envireau (   

Ecobuild 2008

February 29, 2008

Yesterday I braved the eco warrior hoards and went down to Ecobuild at Earls Court (  Blimey what a scrum.  Clearly there’s something in the water as it seems everyone is either creating something to sell as Eco or else busily looking around for the next, new Low Carbon widget.  I particularly loved the air conditioning manufacturers being there. Next year you’ll be able to win a hybrid 4×4 I expect.  I guess it’s encouraging that so many companies feel that there’s money in being green but it did seem a bit desperate.  There was still a crazy amount of paper being given away that even the recycling bins at the side would never cope with.  I would like to know the full Carbon Footprint of Ecobuild, including making and bringing in all the stands, food, visitors etc. Has anyone out there calculated it?  Somehow I doubt it. Anyway what impressed?1. The Sustainable Building Association (AECB), ( launched their CarbonLite Programme – ‘a crash course in low energy buildings for the design and construction industry’, which usefully draws on experience in Europe and North America, as well as the UK, to provide a scheme that concentrates on simple design principles to achieve genuinely low energy buildings:  On a more domestic level the shower tray heat exchanger that provides heat recovery from the waste heat of a shower to prewarm water from the incoming main and reduce, it claims, by 50-70% the energy used by showering.  Apparently installed in 20% of all dutch housing and not yet available directly within the UK it is a simple yet effective way of reducing energy use. How much?  About £300 it was claimed, that pays itself back in 3-5 years depending, I guess, on the cleanliness or otherwise of the users.  They are looking for a UK distributor so if you know of anyone please get in touch (

Being your own guinea pig

February 5, 2008

So it’s not all perfect after all.  The rainwater harvesting system is not working despite much tinkering and hours on the phone to technical help.  After trying various settings and cleaning out the tank and pipe work the inescapable conclusion is that the pump is broken.  Thankfully it’s under warranty and the new one has just arrived.  I’ll let you know if it works once it’s in.  Just to be clear, we do still have the ability to flush the toilets since the default setting is that the system is fed direct from the mains (a good thing too with potty training going on).  So we are flushing our toilets with drinking water for now, just like everyone else.

Monmouth hits the press

April 28, 2007

On thursday this week there was a piece on the house in the Independent newspaper, focussing on the ground coupled heating system.
In case you missed it here’s a link to the online edition.

What water shortage? How to harvest rainwater.

June 11, 2006

We’ve been looking into rainwater harvesting. With all this talk of water shortages and hose pipe bans and Thames Water’s recent request for drought status it seems more and more necessary. What is it? Storing rainwater from the roofs and using it to flush the toilets and potentially to do the washing too.
How big a tank?
How much water do you use?
Roughly daily use:
12 WC flushes per person @ 6ltrs per flush = 72ltrs,
plus, depending on how often you do your washing 1 washing cycle = 60ltrs
Calculating how much rain you can get each year obviously depends on the size of the roof. We’ve discovered that our neighbour’s roof drains onto ours so we have the benefit of that too. The tank we are looking at is approx 1.25m diameter by 1.5m high/long = 1500ltrs. That would serve a 4 person house.
Where to store it?
Either you store it high up the building and use gravity to feed toilets below or you put the tank lower down (in the ground) and pump it up to a header tank. Obviously pumping the water up to a tank takes energy and costs more but because of height restrictions and a 3rd floor bathroom, that’s what we’ve had to do. This will use approx 30 kw hours per year of electricity.
How much does it cost?
I’m still waiting for my quote. I’ll post it when I get it.
Here are some useful links:

rainwater harvesting

Low Carbon Buildings

May 26, 2006

If you are looking to make some sense of energy your house uses and what grants are available for the various technologies a good place to start is The Energy Saving Trust. The UK government has a Low Carbon Buildings programme for grant funding details are available at