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£2bn Gwynt y Mor windfarm

Category: News June 4th, 2010 by mbc

Interested to see that the sea off Wales will be home to one of the largest offshore windfarms in the world. Consisting of 160 wind turbines it should come online in 2014.
I view that with a certain amount of ambivalence, on the positive side –

  • Power from renewables has to be good.!
  • It’s a large capital project which is positive for the economy of both the UK and Wales.
  • New technology is exciting!

But there are also negatives for me –

  • Foreign companies (Dutch and German) seem to be the main players and whilst this is a private investment project it seems a shame that such an undertaking cannot be more ‘British’. (I’m sure there’ll be government financial ‘sweeteners’ in there somewhere finding their way even further offshore than the wind farm…)
  • I’m not yet convinced by the cost effectiveness of these projects. Given the massive upfront investment then ongoing sizeable maintenance costs is this form of power really cost effective when compared to alternatives? (including, heaven forbid nuclear power which we are rarely able to have a grown up debate about in this country).

One to watch with interest…

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The four new English “eco-towns”

Category: News February 10th, 2010 by mbc

The building of four new towns in England (housing being one of those aspects of policy devolved to the Welsh assembly government who are probably concocting some more crazy schemes like sprinklers in residential properties instead of schemes like this) at or near Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire, St Austell in Cornwall, Rackheath in Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire is a strange concept when you think about it. New towns have long been the butt of much humour – you only need to think of Milton Keynes and a whole plethora of jokes follow (What is the difference between a yoghurt and Milton Keynes? Yoghurt has culture. – admittedly not very good jokes)… populate them with the concerned eco-warrior types who will be attracted to these places and add a sprinkle of politics and I think we have the recipe for a whole new range of (not very good) jokes.

Putting aside my cynicism (believe me it’s hard) these seem like worthy and worthwhile developments – so long as true eco credentials can be established and renewability and sustainability not merely paid lip service to then these new towns may well form beacons of good eco-housing practice and catalysts for change in the wider community.

I must admit my first thought was ‘glad they’re not on my doorstep’ , but then I’ve had a bloody big gas pipeline on mine since 2007 so feel that I’ve done my bit in regard to what’s on and not on my doorstep!

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Feed-in tariffs … coming soon to a roof near you!?

Category: News February 2nd, 2010 by mbc

The feed-in tariffs scheme certainly looks to be of great interest. For the unitiated, feed-in tariffs are the governments new scheme to encourage the takeup of renewable technologies through financial benefits. These financial benefits are two-fold, firstly in the form of savings made to on-going energy costs and secondly through a payment made through the scheme:

Installing solar panels [2.5 kilowatt peak photovoltaic system], which cover a space of around 10ft x 10ft on an average sized roof, will cost around £12,500 but this will be paid back in 10 years because the households will be paid £900 per annum, plus making £140 savings on the yearly electricity bill.

Telegraph article

Given the feedback I’ve had on this site in relation to heat pumps and running costs I’m a little concerned that air source heat pumps are included in this:

Mr Miliband also introduced a renewable heat incentive that will pay households for producing their own heat from woodchip boilers or an air source heat pump. A ground source heat pump, that costs more than £1,000 to put in, could be rewarded with £1,000 a year and lead to savings of £200 per year if used instead of oil.

So a step in the right direction, as some financial incentive has to be good for the takeup of renewables and is well overdue – I’ve been moaning about this for sometime now.

Given that this technology is already being sold by ex-used car salesmen who graduated from selling uPVC windows (i.e. sales over-whelmingly motivated by commission) I have concerns for the future morals of the renewables industry and will watch with interest the degree by which demand drives price rises following the introduction of the scheme.

But putting my cynacism aside, one to watch and a step in the right direction.

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Self-builders need some encouragement…

Category: News January 14th, 2010 by mbc

I occasionally ‘page’ through the ecologist website and came this article that piqued my interest:

We need a citizens’ housing revolution

Whilst a little short on content the sentiment – that the development of new housing can be partially entrusted to self-builders who should be ‘helped to create vital, sustainable communities’ – is one that I totally agree with. As ever, the public sector seem to be one of the main barriers to this (at least according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) – the empowered enablers acting to disable the self-builder and retain control.

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Island Micro Grid

Category: News September 11th, 2009 by mbc

Whilst way beyond my own humble aspirations for energy self sufficiency, the fantastically named Island Micro Grid just commissioned at the Centre for Alternative Technology is an interesting development.

I was shocked to read:

The developed world’s centralised electricity system wastes around 65% of energy through heat loss in power stations and transmission lines, before reaching our homes.

How wasteful! And what a great reason to consider and for governments to encourage local energy generation.

An Island Micro Grid is a way to connect together diverse electricity generation technologies (wind, hydro, photovoltaic etc.) and to use generated power locally rather than exporting to the grid. A grid connection is mantained (in effect a bridge from the island grid to the national grid) to allow excess power to be exported to the grid or to allow a draw down from the grid when sufficient power is not available locally.

Read more at the link given above.

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

I love the interior of this conversion and the great use of horizontal slats on this conversion. I retains the essential ‘barnyness’ of the building… flemish-barn-by-arend-groenewegen-architect

Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]

Barns

Barns Gallery on Remodelista

There is a lovely gallery of barn related inspirational photographs available on Remodelista.

Barns – the Long House

Situated on the North Norfolk coast, this is a building to admire…

Barns – the Balancing Barn

A stunning piece of architecture, although not entirely to my taste…

New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

The Daily Mail reports on a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns…

De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”

Design

What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Architecture

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Design in Storage

When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…

News

Green Deal slow beginnings?

Oh dear! The green deal hasn’t got off to a very auspicious start… As reported in the Telegraph today since it was launched nearly a year ago just 12 homes have taken advantage of the Green Deal with a few hundred more in the pipeline. 71,210 households had been assessed for Green Deal measures such […]

The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

Eric Pickles vague compromise on planning reform keeps the house happy (for now).

Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

There seems to be only one thing that is certain in the world of energy policy and that is that costs will rise annually above and beyond anything that inflation can currently throw at us. Beyond that, smoke screens & confusion seem to reign. Take the recent news for example… It’s reported today that the […]

Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

The Green deal launched in the UK on Monday of this week. Fanfares? fireworks? a deluge of marketing? … read more …

Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

The leader of Plaid Cymru has promised a “Green New Deal” to rejuvenate the Welsh economy and help maintain Wales’ position at the forefront of Green policies.

Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

The government is due to announce a temporary increase in the maximum depth of extensions that can be built under permitted development rules.

Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

I wanted to share an interview with Lloyd Khan that I recently found…

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…