Saturday, 26 February 2011

Advert break

I thought it would be good to see if I could find some recycled notebooks or something to keep my notes in for when I go into schools and, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to find this very funky stationery:

I was really pleased to see that it is made just down the road in Worcester so not only is it green by virtue of its manufacture, but it's only travelled a few miles to get here. Apparently when the stationery eventually falls apart you can send it back to them for recycling if you don't have the facilities in your area - how cool is that?!

What's nice is that their range isn't all biscuit-coloured and worthy so you don't feel a drudge for doing something eco. You didn't have to buy green-coloured products but I'm a visual learner so I thought it would emphasise the eco message. I particularly like the pen which is made of cornstarch (and writes as nicely as my normal favourite from the Tate Modern). Anyway, here's a quick plug for them:

Remarkable (Pencils) Ltd, The Remarkable Factory, Midland Road, Worcester, WR5 1DS

Advert over!

Friday, 25 February 2011

End of week three

So here we are at the end of the third week and, so far, everything is going to plan. This morning's machine was the concrete mixer:

and by the end of the morning the hollow was filled. The hardcore, plastic, insulation, steel and concrete make a substantial base for the rest of the house.

The concrete should be set by the end of the weekend but it will be interesting to see if anyone/anything visits the site and makes their mark for posterity like this little dog 2,000 years ago (I bet the tile maker was delighted).

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Under-floor heating

The insulation for the floors is all in now and, as luck would have it, you can see all the bits in this one picture:

There's shuttering round the outer walls for when they pour in the concrete and inside comes one layer of black polythene (held together with double-sided tape - but really sticky stuff), then 3 layers of those foam sheets. Next comes another layer of polythene and then steel frames to form the base of the concrete. It's taken 2 days to get all this done and the insulation now fills the space.

If the rest of the heating turns out to be underwhelming we will at least have VERY warm toes!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

End of week two

If you're wondering what this is, it's a stack of insulations boards that are going to be put inside the foundation walls. They will be layered in up to 25 cm deep. They are a really dense foam made of polyisocyanurate (check me out, with the CGP Chemistry book) and, like the bricks, will stop the cold getting into the house.

Not everything green that's used in this house will be made in England but the boards are from Suffolk and the maker offsets all the carbon used in their manufacture. Their website is at

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Here's the outline of the house from the north

and south

corners of the site.

The layer of black bricks is the first real sign of this house being different - you can see them a bit clearer here.

They are described as "the insulation block that thinks it's a brick" and are made of 33% new and 66% recycled glass mixed with carbon. The company that makes them is in Reading and if you want the technical spec you can check out their site at

These bricks basically form an insulation layer that stops the cold from the ground getting into the walls.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

End of week one

And what a busy week it's been!

Here's the first of the big machines that came onto the site on Monday morning (note it's come with a dumper truck, rather like something out of Bob the Builder)

and here it is unloading hardcore - it wasn't easy getting the lorry to back into the site as there is some rather curious parking in this street and sometimes people don't notice traffic cones or evidence of the building site.

Once the JCB had covered the front of the site with hardcore it started to dig out the base of the walls - here it goes:

At this point the fence appeared to separate off the site, I can only go on with permission now!

They've dug out the trenches bit by bit and have been filling them with concrete as they go - this stops the problem of digging out all the trenches and then having some of the sides collapse whilst they wait for the concrete to arrive.

The concrete mixer backing onto the site was entertaining

By the end of Wednesday you could see the first outlines of the house. The narrow strip on the north side (the right) will be the corridor part with all the stairs and bathrooms and the wider section on the south side will be the main rooms.

So far this is like archaeological excavation in reverse!

Here's one for the archaeologist/geologist: they've dug a hole on the edge of the site to test how well the site drains - this will determine how big the soakaway needs to be. I didn't know what a soakaway really was but it's apparently how rainwater drains from your site - not something you think of in the normal course of events.

Anyway, take a look at the soil profile, there's at least 30cm (1 foot in old money) of topsoil and then it's sand. About 10cm down the soil is flecked with charcoal, initially I thought this was old bonfires but it's appearing everywhere so either it was a massive bonfire or it's a rubbish seam of coal.

By the end of Thursday they had dug all the topsoil out of the building and replaced it with tamped down clinker. It was rather charming to see that the tamping down was done with a wooden construction that wouldn't have looked out of place in Vitruvius' 1st century book on architecture (you can see it leaning against the fence in the 3rd of these photos).

You can see the mounds of topsoil at the back of the site, the one on the right will form the basis of my new flower beds hopefully.

Take a look at the 3 pipes on the north wall in this photo.

The furthest brown one marks the point where the normal mains water will enter the site and the nearer one will be where the water from the roof comes in to flush the loos etc. The black pipe is the point where the warm air will come in - this will be the house's only source of heating, apart from sunlight. More of that in later posts I'm sure but, again, it all sounds very Roman but with the ground providing the warmth for the air, rather than some poor slave stoking a furnace.

Friday bought plenty more traffic onto the site.

First we had the concrete blocks and sand arriving:

Then not one, not two, but three containers for the canteen, office and stores. This was probably the most amusing delivery to see - the containers were lifted into position by a crane and in order to attach the corners to the crane the driver had to put on a safety harness and climb up to the roof via a ladder. He was like Peter Pan in a hard hat and yellow jacket. Nobody could accuse this build of being boring.

So by the end of the week this was the site from the front (note the new location of the portaloo - we have a theory that it is actually the Tardis as it keeps moving round the site).

and this is the view looking to the street - a bit different to last week!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

All systems go

It's been a busy couple of days on site doing the preparatory work for the build. The leaking pond has been filled in and the turf has been removed from the areas where the house and scaffolding will go.

In 24 hours the plot has gone from this:

to this:

It looks a bit of a disaster zone but the wildlife are still enjoying the garden. The fox was roaming around before the builders started at 7.30 this morning and the birds can't believe their luck with all the soil that's been churned up. The build is also attracting a lot of attention from passersby, especially small children who are entranced by the JCB, concrete mixers and the like.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


I'm now blogging the build for the local schools so it seems easiest to just copy those posts here, otherwise I will be spending all my time publicising the build and then it's a slippery slope to twittering endlessly.

This house will be one of the greenest houses in the country. It will be a zero carbon passive house which means it will be heated by the sun, generate its own electricity, recycle rainwater and be made of recycled materials. It won't have any gas for heating or cooking and the electricity it generates will be fed back into the National Grid. We will be energy farmers!!

Here's two of the plans from the street with the new house on the left. As you see, once summer comes it will hardly be visible.

The new house is the same height as the old one on the right but has a much smaller "footprint" on the ground and bigger rooms because it fits them over 3 storeys not 2. The bit on the left of the eco house is a porch to keep the heat in the building when you open the front door and the bit on the right is where all the bathrooms, stairs and areas that aren't used all the time are, they are on the north side of the building.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Clearing Out The Garage!

The first machine has come onto the site and the first task is to clear a route through for all the other machines. This is the view from the current house before today (apologies for the quality):

and here's the same view as of lunchtime today.

The clearance has sadly involved cutting down a hawthorn and a holly plus some unlovely shrubs (not so sad) and the 1960s garage has gone too - you can see the roof of that behind the laurel in the first picture. So far the site is a lot less green than it was but once the build is over the oasis will return so don't panic. You can't, as they say, make a omlette without cracking eggs.