So we’ve decided to build a new house, a zero carbon house. (See what I mean by this in the separate section). If we have to build ourselves a house, then let’s make it a bit different. After several false starts, exploring different shapes for a house, in May 2010 I read, entirely by chance, the report of a zero carbon house in suburban Birmingham. This had solar thermal panels, solar photovoltaic panels and a log burning stove. And that, in a sense, was all. Magic. That it was a huge transformation of an early Victorian 2-bedroom semi into a architect’s 4 bedroom show-house with all sorts of innovative walls and floors was interesting – impressive – but not the point.
It started me searching and researching on the internet, educating myself about insulation and airtightness, about solar panels and solar gain, thermal stores and thermal mass and mechanical heat recovery ventilation systems.
And then another chance event, of serendipity, occured. A friend told me about Uttlesford District Council’s Sustainable Homes network. This hadn’t appeared in my searches over the previous seven months. This gave me the names of local people, including an architect and a builder who knew about this sort of building and, even better, was already doing this sort of thing.
By this time we had a reasonable idea of what we wanted. If this was to be our retirement house, it would make sense to put one bedroom downstairs, with its own bathroom and of course kitchen, dining/living room and sitting room. Large utility room as you need room to handle honey as we’d no intention of giving up the bees. And there would have to be lobbies to each outside door as you don’t want to let all the warm air out of the house when you open the doors – there have to be back and front halls to act as air locks. These halls have to be as small as possible – to minimise the heat lost – but large enough to be sensible. The ergonomics of the space have to be thought about. There must be room to come in, put down whatever you might be carrying, shut the door behind you, possibly take your coat off, and only then open the door into the rest of the house. More space. The house – or at least the ground floor is getting quite large.