elements of domestic design


The Green Agenda has been with us for some time now and in a good way it continues to prompt us to make decisions that have at least considered the effect of our actions. However the green tag does not always mean that it is a totally green choice. An eco green ‘widget’ that has been made the other side of the world and shipped to the UK has contributed negatively to the green house gases in the transportation. It is a complex business and I am sure we will all get better at it.

Our philosophy has always been to exploit simple technology to make buildings work well. For instance the position, size and orientation of glazed openings and the relation to solar shading devices – a projecting eaves is a very effective way to manage the benefits of solar gain through the seasons. The low winter sun can penetrate the room whilst high summer sun is shaded and this will slowly change with the seasons at no cost. The house ‘shown’ was built 20 years ago before the Building Regulations had started to reflect our current concerns. The walls were thicker than normal and well-insulated as was the solid floor slab to increase the thermal mass. It uses passive stack ventilation to keep it comfortable in summer. The Conservatory is used to gain extra solar heat in the winter and it can be released into the house during the day. The Living room and Kitchen each have stoves that radiate heat whilst alight, which is later released from the surrounding mass of the brickwork. It is simple and it works well. We source locally wherever we can and try to carry this through within the office as well.

We have shown an Earth-sheltered project which is a concept which we think will gain popularity and look forward to meeting the right client for a project of this sort.

In summary there are now many more options available for more sophisticated technical management of our energy consumption which we use in common with most other Architects to satisfy current legislative requirements and if clients are keen to invest more we are very happy to be part of that, but we don’t make these provisions dominate the look or function of the building unless our clients are happy to make this their driver and want to make it part of the Architectural expression. Ultimately it is not clear whether we will be able to arrest the impact of the human race on the planet including climate change, but even on a personal basis it makes sense to limit our energy consumption and the cost to us where we can.

‘Constraints can be useful stimuli to encourage progressive thinking.’

Practicals:
1.Multiple heating sources can be used to heat hot water with the right cylinder. Solar panels, wood-burning stoves are relatively easily linked to conventional systems.

2.Underfloor heating is particularly good for heating Ground Floor spaces. Apart from removing the need for radiators and the limitations they place on how rooms are used, underfloor heating gently radiates heat at a low temperature evenly over a wider area to a height of about 2m and at the same time makes floors comfortable to walk-on barefoot. Solid floors and finishes are better for this than wood although wood can be used. Upstairs rooms can also have underfloor heating though if it is bedrooms radiators can still be the pragmatic solution.

3.Seal the draughts. Even single-glazed sash windows can perform much better by replacing the staff and parting beads with new ones with neoprene blades, perhaps as part of an overhaul. (The wood in older properties is usually of higher quality than from current stocks.) There are lots of similar fittings for doors. Remember replacing whole units is not always the best answer.

4.There are lots of ways that heat gain can be mitigated and to save you using air conditioning.

5.If you have a house with lots of GU10 downlights, LED lights are now able to generate as much useful light as the former tungsten equivalent. It costs more to buy them, but they will last much longer, running on a fraction of the energy of tungsten fittings so you will start to save money immediately.

6.There are many strategies that can be employed, especially when dealing with a new house, but be prepared to make a front end capital investment to gain the maximum long –term benefit.