Year: 2008

Wales’ Zero Carbon Dream

Zero Carbon is a term that 'haunts' me a lot (I need to get out more). Our barn won't be zero carbon, for a number of reasons, but mainly because it would have cost too much. I'm sure that the time will come in the not too distant future when photovoltaics (the only sensible option to paying back all that carbon you emit elsewhere) can be installed for a reasonable capital cost and with a reasonable payback period and so the balance will tip. But crucially, that balance has yet to tip. When I read that Wales intends to steal…
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Quality Materials

What we now consider as high quality, high cost choices for building with, traditional materials such as limestone, sandstone, slate, hard woods, steel, dressed stone and hand-made bricks; were once standard. These materials are what contribute to those elusive but seductive and often valuable features of buildings often referred to as period charm or character. Any building built before World War Two (and many built after) is likely to contain such materials. These will be from the days before mass transportation and the desire to move dense heavy materials over vast distances to be used at locations where similar materials…
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The sustainability of old buildings

An interesting short article on green futures states that: Our historic buildings need not be unsustainable. What's more, we can still learn a lot from their many examples of innovative technology .... underpinned by the old wisdom of self-sufficiency. I go a step further in that I see old buildings and the process of renovating them as an unmissable opportunity to take fantastic old structures with their durable, natural and attractive materials and through marrying these with new technologies & materials providing comfortable, sustainable and healthy living environments. In effect we can erase much of the post-war nastiness in house…
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Building Progress ~ November 2008

So apparently stoves are like hens teeth these days, demand for them has rocketed in line with spiralling fuel bills. I've been trying to track one down, our original choice had a 14-16 weeks lead-time on it so a bit of digging around on the internet later I managed to find a Country 16B Multi-fuel that was in stock with a supplier so hopefully will be with us before Christmas. Plastering is completed (except for final tidying up and the wall behind where the stove will be). My main task has been cleaning down the water staining from the two…
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Cleaning oak beams

I wanted to minimise the use of steel in the building and I like the texture and appearance of untreated hard woods - that led to the importation of two eastern European oak beams for use in the barn. That long journey (let's not worry about carbon footprints for now) and a few weeks sitting outside on my yard left their marks on the beams. Both were water stained and blackened and in this state were installed into the barn and the first floor was built 'on' them. Based on a combination of hind-sight and time earned experience here is…
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Corner bath?

The bath I bought doesn't quite fit into the bathroom if it's placed along the same wall as the shower... It does fit if placed across the corner as in the picture, so the question is corner bath? Does it say badly planned bathroom or boutique hotel? Corner bath?
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Main bedroom ‘suite’…

Please excuse the slightly pompous title to this post - guess I'm pretty happy with way this aspect of the conversion has gone. The initial design was a little bit strange, with two doors through an internal wall that didn't really have enough space for them and an over-large en suite bathroom that was a waste of space. After a fair amount of thought a new plan was decided upon and after some juggling and guess-work started to be put into action. Entering from the landing So now, with the walls and doorways in place and the finishes beginning to…
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Items ‘ordinarily’ incorporated in a building

Having spent much time pawing over VAT documentation in preparation for my VAT reclaim I discovered that the HM Revenue & Customs definition of items 'ordinarily' incorporated in a building makes for interesting reading and may suggest a few VAT free inclusions for your design. In short, you can claim for building materials that are ordinarily incorporated into that type of building during the course of the conversion. These include: Air conditioning; Not good for the environment - definitely not encouraged! Dust extractors and filters (including built-in vacuum cleaners); Built in vacuum cleaners! - Cool! Flooring materials (not carpets); If…
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The case for coal

Now here's a conundrum... First the facts: The barn lies just outside of the South Wales Coal Field. Our heating system will comprise of solar thermal water heating (from in-roof panels) with a multi-fuel burner as the 'primary' heat source (& a backup electrical heating coil in the tank) [Read the background to that] (I'm still not sure if this stripped down heating system is a brave or foolish solution, but the decision is made and plans in place). I will have a need to keep the multi-fuel burner fuelled, albeit infrequently, and providing some heat over-night and into the…
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