Eco house build

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Jeremy Jeremy
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Eco house build

As mentioned in the electric bike thread, we're embarking on the build of an eco house, specifically a house that (hopefully) meets the Passivhaus standard (essentially a house that doesn't need a heating/cooling system).  We've been thinking about, and planning, a self-build for around ten years, but needed to wait until I had enough time, and we had enough money, to start looking for a plot.  We've been plot hunting since I took early retirement in September last year and found the plot of our dreams a couple of weeks ago, made an offer on it and had it accepted.

We're pretty settled on the house construction method; it will be a post and beam internally exposed timber frame, panelled externally with super-insulated panels (u value of better than 0.1).  The lower half will probably be rendered, the upper half clad in larch waney edge planking.  The house will have triple glazed windows, a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system, low voltage lighting powered by a solar PV array charging storage batteries, a solar hot water system (supplemented by heat recovery from the warm exhaust air from the MVHR system) and maybe a heat pump for supplementary heating/cooling.

Currently we're dealing with the issues surrounding buying the plot.  I think we've solved the major archaeological issues (the plot sits over the site of an early post-medieval mill, with associated industrial heritage spanning a few hundred years), with a bit of cunning foundation design.  The biggest problem we have is with the boundary and a footpath.  The boundary seems to have been moved about 8m by the neighbour (essentially he's nicked a large part of the plot to extend his garden)  and in the process a public footpath into the woods that form a part of the plot has been shifted by a few metres.

The good news is that the local council are being very helpful, the bad news is that it seems to involve masses of work, phone calls and correspondence to get anything done.  Lessons learned so far?  Never underestimate the amount of work needed just to buy a plot of land, with all the necessary permissions to build a house.

If anyone is curious as to where the plot is, take a look at the location defined by these coordinates in Google Earth: Lat:  51°41'55.54"N  Long:   2°41'39.14"W

Hopefully we'll have the boundary and footpath issues sorted soon which will then allow us to finalise the house footprint and start the detailed design process.

Jeremy
Tomsk Tomsk
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Re: Eco house build

Jeremy

As a fellow boat builder (though very quiet on UK HBBR) I have followed your previous threads with great interest.  However I am also deep into a degree (re-educating mature student!) reading sustainability and renewable energy issues.  I look forward eagerly to your future posts, which I shall read with interest, whilst green with envy!

GOOD LUCK! 

Tom


On 30 May 2011 19:59, Jeremy [via UK HBBR Forum] <[hidden email]> wrote:
As mentioned in the electric bike thread, we're embarking on the build of an eco house, specifically a house that (hopefully) meets the Passivhaus standard (essentially a house that doesn't need a heating/cooling system).  We've been thinking and planning a self-build for around ten years, but needed to wait until I had enough time, and we had enough money, to start looking for a plot.  We've been plot hunting since I took early retirement in September last year and found the plot of our dreams a couple of weeks ago, made an offer on it and had it accepted.

We're pretty settled on the house construction method; it will be a post and beam internally exposed timber frame, panelled externally with super-insulated panels (u value of better than 0.1).  The lower half will probably be rendered, the upper half clad in larch waney edge planking.  The house will have triple glazed windows, a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system, low voltage lighting powered by a solar PV array charging storage batteries, a solar hot water system (supplemented by heat recovery from the warm exhaust air from the MVHR system) and maybe a heat pump for supplementary heating/cooling.

Currently we're dealing with the issues surrounding buying the plot.  I think we've solved the major archaeological issues (the plot sits over the site of an early post-medieval mill, with associated industrial heritage spanning a few hundred years), with a bit of cunning foundation design.  The biggest problem we have is with the boundary and a footpath.  The boundary seems to have been moved about 8m by the neighbour (essentially he's nicked a large part of the plot to extend his garden)  and in the process a public footpath into the woods that form a part of the plot has been shifted by a few metres.

The good news is that the local council are being very helpful, the bad news is that it seems to involve masses of work, phone calls and correspondence to get anything done.  Lessons learned so far?  Never underestimate the amount of work needed just to buy a plot of land, with all the necessary permissions to build a house.

If anyone is curious as to where the plot is, take a look at the location defined by these coordinates in Google Earth: Lat:  51°41'55.54"N  Long:   2°41'39.14"W

Hopefully we'll have the boundary and footpath issues sorted soon which will then allow us to finalise the house footprint and start the detaled design process.

Jeremy


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Jeremy Jeremy
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Thanks Tom, I have a feeling that building a house will be a slightly bigger, and somewhat more daunting, project than building a boat.

One thing I've found so far is that far, far more things than I would have thought depend on the nature of the plot.  We'd previously been thinking of an earth sheltered house, but finding a perfect plot in all respects, except the ability to be able to dig down into the ground more than about 600mm, has put paid to that idea, along with all the years of research we'd done into it.  The net result is that I've been going up a steep learning curve looking at Passivhaus technologies and adapting all our ideas to fit with the constraints of the plot.  The good news is that the alignment of the house (dictated by the planners) means that I can get loads of solar gain, whilst still being relatively sheltered from the prevailing wind (not too hard, as the plot is fairly deep in a wooded valley).  The down side of being so sheltered is that wind power will be a non-starter, but I think I can get enough solar PV and hot water panels up to meet most of our needs.  I'll probably need to modify the solar boat propulsion system though, as the Wye probably isn't deep enough to cope with the big prop system I have at the moment.

I have feeling that I may need to acquire some tree management skills, as it seems we may have around 50 to 60 mature trees in the back "garden", maybe a few more.
Paul (admin) Paul (admin)
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Re: Eco house build

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Jeremy,

I'm fairly close in Gloucester and I'm 100% behind you in your goal for a passive house - if you need help let me know. I've studied passive house technology for a few years on the Navitron forum.

-Paul
Jeremy Jeremy
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Thanks Paul, you are indeed pretty close - maybe 40mins drive away at a guess.  I may take a look at the Navitron forum, it would certainly help to bounce a few ideas around with other like minded folk.

One difficulty I've already run into is that the building trade is very conservative and resistant to change.  Anything that doesn't use tons of concrete is viewed with suspicion, for example.  I want to build using a main contractor, rather than manage it myself, and finding one who thinks along the same line as I do is proving to be harder than I thought.

It seems that most companies in the eco/sustainable house business are small and specialise in just one or two elements, like SIPS panels, timber frames, heating systems, windows, foundation systems or whatever - few seem able to deal with a complete house build.  If I wanted a conventional house then there are literally dozens of companies I could choose from to look after the whole build.

Jeremy
Tomsk Tomsk
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I can imagine the frustration Jeremy.  I'm in the 'frozen north' near Wakefield and have been totally unable to find a local plumber who is proficient with the likes of thermal stores and bio mass heating.

If I mentioned Passivhaus I'd be shot by the home guard!

Tom

On May 31, 2011 8:21 AM, "Jeremy [via UK HBBR Forum]" <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> Thanks Paul, you are indeed pretty close - maybe 40mins drive away at a guess.  I may take a look at the Navitron forum, it would certainly help to bounce a few ideas around with other like minded folk.
>
> One difficulty I've already run into is that the building trade is very conservative and resistant to change.  Anything that doesn't use tons of concrete is viewed with suspicion, for example.  I want to build using a main contractor, rather than manage it myself, and finding one who thinks along the same line as I do is proving to be harder than I thought.
>
> It seems that most companies in the eco/sustainable house business are small and specialise in just one or two elements, like SIPS panels, timber frames, heating systems, windows, foundation systems or whatever - few seem able to deal with a complete house build.  If I wanted a conventional house then there are literally dozens of companies I could choose from to look after the whole build.
>
> Jeremy
>
> ________________________________
> If you reply to this email, your message will be added to the discussion below:
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alopenboat alopenboat
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On 31 May 2011 at 0:21, Jeremy [via UK HBBR Forum] wrote:

> One difficulty I've already run into is that the building trade is
> very conservative and resistant to change.  Anything that doesn't use
> tons of concrete is viewed with suspicion, for example.  I want to
> build using a main contractor, rather than manage it myself, and
> finding one who thinks along the same line as I do is proving to be
> harder than I thought.
>

When you are a Beale try to have a word with DCA president Roger
Barnes. He is an architect and has designed a number of "non-
standard" buildings <http://www.rogerbarnes.net> He may be able to
give you some contacts.

--
Hoping for calm nights

Alastair Law,      
Yeovil, England.
<http://www.little.jim.freeuk.com>          

Jeremy Jeremy
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Thanks for that tip, I shall search him out and have a quiet word if I can.  From a quick glance at his website he seems to think along the same lines as ourselves - we want a mix of traditional looking structure with modern thermal performance - which seem to fit with his approach.  I'd love to put something on this hillside that makes a real design statement, but fear that the planners would rather have something that looks like an old stone cottage, as it's inside the Wye Valley AONB.

Jeremy
Paul (admin) Paul (admin)
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Jeremy,

My cousin has a listed house - basically you can do anything you want on the inside as long as the outside looks traditional.

Timber framed, super insulated with local stone on the outer wall might get the thumbs up. uPVC windows are a no-no for my cousin but you can fit triple glazing behind a traditional window.

I'll talk to Ivan, a Navitron director, who lives in Ross-on-Wye. He had some timber windows made locally to fit triple glazed units and probably knows of suitable builders. However judging by feedback on the Navitron forum you are better off managing it yourself because most builders have no idea what "air-tight" means in a passive house context...and building air-tight is critical.

-Paul
simplesimon simplesimon
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If you use uPVC, beware of expansion & contraction.

The more observant ladies may have noticed the great crack in the shower area at BTAC. That has been caused by the uPVC cladding working and forcing the timber cladding to party company from the steel frame.

Simon
Jeremy Jeremy
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The current line of thought involves hardwood triple glazed windows with a coated aluminium outer skin.  This combines the look of wood inside, the thermal performance of a well-designed wooden frame (it's a triple section frame with aerogel between the layers to reduce cold bridging) and gives a maintenance-free exterior finish.  As the outer walls around the internally-exposed post and beam structural frame will be thick (at least 300mm to get the thermal performance I'm looking for) the key will be getting the windows set into the reveals with enough detail to make it look pleasing - I'm leaving that challenge to the architect!

I'm back off to the site today, to meet with the council enforcement officer this afternoon over the route of a footpath across the land that looks to be in the wrong place.  So far the contentious boundary and rights of way issue seems to have soaked up an inordinate amount of my time.

This week has been a round of meetings with frame builders, next week it's structural engineers (for the foundations) and piling companies.  I suspect I'm also going to get a shock next week from the power distribution company, as they are talking about putting extra poles in to run power to the plot - not cheap, I'll wager.

Jeremy
Paul (admin) Paul (admin)
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Jeremy,

On the Navitron forum I know of people who were quoted up to £10K to extend power lines in remote locations. All of sudden solar panels, wind turbines and batteries then look very cost effective!
Often that tips people into renewable energy, with a genny as backup.

Ivan has sent details of the local joiner:
"The windows are made by Gerald Harris Joinery in Monmouth. Can't remember the address or telephone number but you should find it on the internet easily enough. I know Gerald personally, and he's regarded as the best joiner for miles around. His prices are generally pretty good, too. Just tell him you need a 44mm rebate (or whatever your friend requires) for triple glazing, and he should be able to accomodate it."

Here are some pics of the lovely joinery. In the top picture, the window glass will sit on the right hand side. It also had a ventilation grove routed in the middle of the rebate.

44mm rebate




Ivan said the triple glazed units made a big improvement over existing double glazed units.

The mad thing is that by 2050 the entire country will be ripping out plastic double glazing and replacing with triple glazing....timber framed because oil will have virtually run out.

-Paul
Jeremy Jeremy
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Thanks Paul, those windows do look nice, and have the added advantage of being locally made.

I had the expected shock from Western Power Distribution when I got home a little while ago, £5,800 to run poles/wires etc to the plot.  £4,600 of this is contestable works though, so I should be able to knock the bill down a bit by getting my ground works contractor to do combined utilities excavation and maybe try and contract out some of the other contestable elements.

The site meeting went sort of OK, but the Enforcement Officer has probably made things more complex.  The neighbour has been using around 170m² of the plot as part of his garden for many years and that part of the plot has the legally defined route of a footpath over it (as shown on the Definitive map, in, I kid you not, red crayon - cue Monty Python pet shop sketch.........).  The actual route of the footpath is around 10m away, there is no trace of a path where the Definitive Map says it should be.  This has several consequences, none of them helpful.  The first is that legally both footpaths are now, apparently, rights of way, the one that doesn't exist on the ground but which is on the map and the one that exists on the ground but which isn't marked on the map.  One of these has to be formally closed with a Definitive Map Modification Order, which involves 6 weeks consultation with people like the Ramblers Association, the AONB management authority, the Community Council etc (I bet all that'll be fun..........).  There's then a 4 week appeal period, followed by the issuing of a stopping up order on the non-existent path.

The proposed way forward is to slightly shift the path that doesn't legally exist on the Definitive Map, so there's room to build the house and drive, then apply for a DMMO to close the path that doesn't exist but which is marked on the Definitive Map.  After that another DMMO needs to be applied for to make the slightly altered route of the path that does exist (but which isn't on the map........) the legally defined foot path.

I've agreed to pass the bit of land that the neighbour has been using for years to the neighbour, as I can't access it except by crossing the footpath.  However, that presents a problem because the law of adverse possession (which would normally mean that the neighbour now owns that land by default) specifically excludes land that includes a highway and, believe it or not, a footpath that doesn't exist, but which appears on the Definitive Map, is a highway in law.  This makes transferring the land title to the neighbour a nightmare, because it can't take place until the non-existent footpath has been officially closed..............

Your really couldn't make this stuff up, could you?

Jeremy
Tomsk Tomsk
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Jeremy

I know nothing of Footpaths (thankfully) - an aweful mess for you to sought - however on the subject of adverse possession:  Sometime after 2005 I believe the law changed in that land will NEVER fall to a new owner by default unless they have occupied said land for a period of years (I believe that to be 12) and they have applied to land registry to claim this land; at this juncture land registry must attempt to contact the current land owner.  If no contest to the land is made at this point then the new occupant may make claim.  My wife and I recently successfully reclaimed a tract of land that had been lost for over 40 years because post 2005 (or whatever date it was) this land had not been re-registered to a new owner.  An adjacent plot of land was lost as an unscrupulous occupant had taken legal possession under the old default laws and later had it legally registered.

Hope this tidbit is of some use...

Regards


Tom

On 3 June 2011 18:38, Jeremy [via UK HBBR Forum] <[hidden email]> wrote:
Thanks Paul, those windows do look nice, and have the added advantage of being locally made.

I had the expected shock from Western Power Distribution when I got home a little while ago, £5,800 to run poles/wires etc to the plot.  £4,600 of this is contestable works though, so I should be able to knock the bill down a bit by getting my ground works contractor to do combined utilities excavation and maybe try and contract out some of the other contestable elements.

The site meeting went sort of OK, but the Enforcement Officer has probably made things more complex.  The neighbour has been using around 170m² of the plot as part of his garden for many years and that part of the plot has the legally defined route of a footpath over it (as shown on the Definitive map, in, I kid you not, red crayon - cue Monty Python pet shop sketch.........).  The actual route of the footpath is around 10m away, there is no trace of a path where the Definitive Map says it should be.  This has several consequences, none of them helpful.  The first is that legally both footpaths are now, apparently, rights of way, the one that doesn't exist on the ground but which is on the map and the one that exists on the ground but which isn't marked on the map.  One of these has to be formally closed with a Definitive Map Modification Order, which involves 6 weeks consultation with people like the Ramblers Association, the AONB management authority, the Community Council etc (I bet all that'll be fun..........).  There's then a 4 week appeal period, followed by the issuing of a stopping up order on the non-existent path.

The proposed way forward is to slightly shift the path that doesn't legally exist on the Definitive Map, so there's room to build the house and drive, then apply for a DMMO to close the path that doesn't exist but which is marked on the Definitive Map.  After that another DMMO needs to be applied for to make the slightly altered route of the path that does exist (but which isn't on the map........) the legally defined foot path.

I've agreed to pass the bit of land that the neighbour has been using for years to the neighbour, as I can't access it except by crossing the footpath.  However, that presents a problem because the law of adverse possession (which would normally mean that the neighbour now owns that land by default) specifically excludes land that includes a highway and, believe it or not, a footpath that doesn't exist, but which appears on the Definitive Map, is a highway in law.  This makes transferring the land title to the neighbour a nightmare, because it can't take place until the non-existent footpath has been officially closed..............

Your really couldn't make this stuff up, could you?

Jeremy


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Jeremy Jeremy
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You're right, the law that covers adverse possession does require 12 years exclusive use of the land, with a 2 year appeal period after that, before the title can be registered to the new effective owner.  In my case this is something the vendors have to sort out before completion, thank goodness, so it won't involve too much work on my part.

The adverse possession bit is probably a moot point in this case, as the strip of land concerned officially has a highway running over it (the non-existent footpath) and this precludes any adverse possession claim by the neighbour, apparently.

I am extremely glad that I took the time to check the plot dimensions carefully with a tape the week after our offer was excepted, though, as if I hadn't I could have easily ended up having to try and sort all this ourselves.

Jeremy
Paul (admin) Paul (admin)
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Jeremy,

Western Power are probably planning a 100Amp main fuse. That's 40kW which is way too much for a Passive House. Why not aim for a 10kW supply which should be enough to run the heat pump, fridge/freezer,  lighting and the other junk? If necessary you could use a load balancer to reduce peak demand.

Then you only need a 40Amp supply and you could bury an armoured cable from the neighbours DNO connection, materials would be a few quid a metre and surely the planners would love to have cables out of sight.

-Paul
momist momist
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> shown on the Definitive map, in, I kid you not, red crayon
Jeremy,

Red is a notoriously fugitive colour, especially in inks, but the law
says that red must be used in this context.  Hence the use of crayon,
which is actually coloured pencil.  So long as some of the red tint
remains, the mark will be legible and therefore legal.

Some years ago I was perusing the accounts of a tinsmith company written
in the early 1830's, and still perfectly legible as they had been
written in pencil.  The ink used to print the lined paper they were
written on was nearly all gone, faded away.


Ian
Jeremy Jeremy
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Paul,

I specifically asked for a standard 15kW connection, the lowest power domestic installation they'll provide, and they've quoted on that basis, albeit for an overhead supply up the lane.  I do need to explore connecting via the neighbour, but that means getting their cooperation, which may not be forthcoming as they objected to the planning application quite vociferously.

I would very much prefer it if the cables went underground, especially as I need to get some phone cables shifted underground as well, to get crane access to the site to lift the frame into place  The lane has just been re-surfaced though, so digging 120 metres of it up to lay an underground supply to the plot will not exactly go down well with the locals.  It'll also cost a fair bit, as my ground works contractor probably won't be authorised to dig up the road and reinstate it, so I'd pretty much be forced to use the (no doubt expensive) services of WPD.

Ian,

Thanks for the explanation of the red crayon on the map, it makes a lot of sense.  The Definitive Map is a 3rd Edition OS 6" map from the 1929 survey, so the width of the red crayon line is around 10m or so on the ground, which makes things challenging when looking at two "paths" that are only separated by about 10m on the ground.

The red crayon bit just made me chuckle because it reminded me of the sketch from Monty Python, where the chap goes into a shop and asks for a licence for his pet fish, Eric (http://www.montypython.net/scripts/fishlic.php).

Jeremy
simplesimon simplesimon
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Jeremy wrote
Currently we're dealing with the issues surrounding buying the plot.  I think we've solved the major archaeological issues (the plot sits over the site of an early post-medieval mill, with associated industrial heritage spanning a few hundred years), with a bit of cunning foundation design.  
Just for interest's sake, what are your foundations? Bored piles with above-surface beams?

Simon
Jeremy Jeremy
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Currently there are two options for foundations.  The first structural engineer would prefer a shallow reinforced concrete raft, with an integral raised steel reinforced ring beam around the perimeter.  I'm not keen on this for two reasons; it uses far too much concrete (so raises the embodied energy in the build) and it makes getting good floor thermal performance more challenging (we're ridge height limited and max excavation depth limited by the planner, so every extra 100mm on the floor reduces the available volume in the house).

My preferred option is small scale screw piles.  These have the blessing of English Heritage from an archaeological standpoint, are quick and easy to drive using an adapter on a JCB arm, are load bearing as soon as they are driven and allow us to build the house on an internally insulated timber ring beam.  The latter will sit at the excavated level, just above where the base of a concrete raft would sit, with a shallow ventilated undercroft partially filled with chippings under the floor.  This allows the floor u value to be the same as that of the walls and means that there is no direct ground conduction.  It will also eliminate the need for sealing the ground from the house with regard to damp penetration, as the structure only contacts the ground at the raised pile caps.

If you want to see how the screw piles go in, here's a link to one of the biggest suppliers http://www.screwfast.com/ , with some neat videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/ScrewFastFoundations/#p/u/0/cmt6zAjY37Y  http://www.youtube.com/user/ScrewFastFoundations/#p/u/5/3UClZSa3SCU  Here's another supplier http://www.geologicfoundations.co.uk/

Jeremy
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