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Sketchup

Category: Useful Information November 26th, 2011 by mbc

I’ve been dabbling with Google Sketchup recently. Sketchup is according to the blurb “3D sketching software for the conceptual phases of design” or as rather more grandly proclaimed by McCall & Associates “SketchUp is the finest (and most innovative) tool available for anyone designing anything from coffee pots to skyscrapers.”

I’ve wanted to produce a series of ‘anatomy of…’ posts detailing the components and terminology related to the various parts of a building for some time now. I really wanted the series to be driven by diagrams rather than words – this is one of those subjects where a picture really is worth a thousand words. It didn’t take much searching to happen upon Sketchup as perhaps the best option for me to use.

So far I’ve created a couple of models and uploaded them to my new Sketchup library. Please take a look.

With the aid of Google SketchUp 8 For Dummies I spent a couple of head-scratching evenings trying to get Sketchup to do something close to what I wanted it to do. To me, the key to Sketchup as so many things in life is keeping things simple (KISS). Its all about edges and faces. Draw an edge (basically a line but in three dimensions), form a shape using other edges and Sketchup will fill the space between the edges with a face… repeat until you’ve built a model of the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or in my case a labelled picture of a section of roof! There are all sorts of other whistles-and-bells, but those are the basics.

Quite enjoyable and a powerful tool for building any models you may have a hankering after. Give it a try… I quite fancy building a complete model of the barn – another one for the to-do list.

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The anatomy of…

Category: Useful Information November 10th, 2011 by mbc

Anyone who has ever experienced my struggling for a correct structural term, name of a tool or other fine point of building terminology will understand why I thought writing an ‘anatomy of…’ series was a good idea.

This series of posts will be about laying bare the basics of building through annotated diagrams so that a layman like me can better understand and use the vocabulary of building terms. If you’ve ever asked yourself what exactly is a purlin, a stud wall or a trickle vent then hopefully I’ll start to provide some answers…

There’ll be a bias toward the types of structures found in my barn, but I’ll try to cover other types of construction as far as I am able to.

It will also be a chance for me to try out and develop some skill with Google’s excellent SketchUp 3D modelling tool.

The series starts with: The Anatomy of a Roof then The Anatomy of a Floor.

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Passive Solar Heating Systems – ideas

Category: Eco-Architecture November 2nd, 2011 by mbc

As I’ve posted previously:

A direct gain system is one where the main means of thermal gain is through direct heating of the thermal mass by solar radiation entering the building through windows and being absorbed by the thermal mass. An indirect gain system is one where solar radiation is captured and stored in a component of the building that has a high thermal mass and from there released to areas within the building that require heating.

That’s all well and good, but what does this mean in practical terms, how do we design our buildings to maximise solar heating? Here are a few tips:

Direct Passive Solar Heating

  • You need plenty of double or triple glazed energy efficient glass that will let the heat in and keep it in. If possible plan for glazing the equivalent of up to 25% of the floor space. Windows should face as close to due south as possible, although anywhere within 30 degrees of this will still provide solar gain.
  • To allow a degree of control over the amount of sunlight entering the building all windows will need curtains, shutters or blinds that can be used to shut out excessive sun-light.
  • Don’t cover stone or concrete floors with carpets, they will inhibit solar energy from reaching and being absorbed by your thermal mass.
  • Dark coloured materials will absorb more thermal energy than light ones.
  • When considering building materials keep the word mass in mind – the more the merrier.
  • To shelter especially exposed elevations, consider planting deciduous trees that will bear leaves and create shade over the summer and help prevent overheating. In the winter the trees will shed the leaves and let what sunshine there is through.

Indirect Passive Solar Heating

Perhaps not well suited to our temperate UK climate were days on uninterrupted sunshine are few and far between, I find the inventiveness of indirect passive solar heating solutions very attractive. For example, the Trombe wall or window box.

To build a Trombe wall. (also known as a solar window), take a south (or north in the southern hemisphere) facing 8 inch or so thick masonry wall, paint it black on the outside then glaze leaving an inch wide gap between the wall and the glass. Sunlight will hit the wall, be absorbed into and radiate through the wall to heat the interior. Heat travels through a masonry wall at about an inch an hour so as the interior cools in the late afternoon, heat that was absorbed by the wall earlier in the day will radiate into and warm the room beyond the wall.

A variation on this is a Window box passive solar heating system. For one of these, build a box beneath a window, glaze it and fill it with stones. Sunlight will heat the stones, heated air will rise up in the box and pass into the building through a vent that passes from the top of the box, through the wall underneath the window and into the interior of the building to be heated. A door over the vent can be used to regulate the interior heating.

Isolated Gain Passive Solar Heating

Not really one for the UK but in sunnier locals sun-spaces (also known as a solar room or solarium) are areas of a home, usually central to the layout, with lots of vertical glazing, minimal horizontal glazing and plenty of thermal mass. Doors into the rooms that lead off the sun-space are used to regulate the passage of heat. Read more at energysavers.gov

For anyone interested in indirect passive solar heating solutions then I thoroughly recommend, The Barefoot Architect which has plenty of suggestions accompanied by some (occasionally indistinct, but nevertheless useful) pictures.

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SDS Max drill / breaker – bit removal

Category: Barn Conversion Journal August 25th, 2011 by mbc

I hired a big SDS Max drill this weekend – really a breaker more than a drill. I’m fitting a juliet balcony to the old hay loft door (building reg’s) and I wanted to get as large a drill as I could to ensure I could drill the 120+mm deep and 12mm wide holes in the very hard stone walls of the barn without too much trouble. So I hired this big boy…

From Barn Conversion 2011

Took some searching to find a 12mm SDS Max masonry drill bit, but thankfully Toolstation came to the rescue with the one that they had in stock in their Cardiff branch. All went pretty well with the drilling, except for the two lower holes for the balcony. The drill being so powerful that the small pieces of stone we were trying to drill just shook loose from the surrounding mortar and needed a liberal application of masonry resin and strong concrete to make good. Then came the struggle to get the bit out of the drill…

To cut a long story short, simply pull back the collar as marked on the photograph and you’ll be able to remove the bit. Easy when you know how, but a pain when you don’t. (It might look obvious but close up, that collar doesn’t look like it’ll move, only when you try you find that it does.)

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Step 12 = heating – space and water

Category: Steps along the way June 24th, 2011 by mbc

What are your input systems?

Oh the headaches this one has caused me…

The first thing to determine is which is your over-riding goal – keeping costs down or be ‘green’? With mains gas still the cheapest option (at least in the short term) a modern gas boiler is probably still the best choice if you’re on the mains and cost is a priority (and arguably it’s not so bad on the green-front as other electricity hungry solutions – but I’ll not be having that argument with anyone thanks very much!). With no mains gas we get into the standard set of barn conversion options – oil boilers, heat pumps (ground and air source), combined heat and power (CHP), bio-mass (& 2) and conventional wood burning.

Oil is expensive and looks set to get more so, heat pumps consume electricity (again expensive and looks set to get more so, add PV to generate your own and push up those capital costs even further), CHP may still be too young as a technology (although it may be interesting when used in combination with mains gas in something like the Baxi Ecogen micro-CHP unit) and bio-mass / wood burning are only really suitable if you can ‘grow-your-own’ or at least have a ready supply of firewood and a love of chopping logs (unless you fancy burning pellets and tying yourself to the vagaries of that budding marketplace). I said it was a tricky subject…

Steps along the way...

When I started MyBarnConversion I meant to share some quick and easy yet hopefully valuable tips in a 'Steps along the way' series of short posts.

That series fell by the wayside, but now I've brought it back. Use the link above for a full list of my tips.

I reserve a separate paragraph for solar thermal hot-water as I feel it deserves to stand-alone. Unless you’re really, really pushed for budget, I see solar thermal hot-water panels as an essential feature of any contemporary build, regardless of which other choice(s) you make when building your space and water heating solution.

Those are your options, take your pick…

Don’t forget you should minimise your demand for heating, so maximising your levels of insulation and the solar heat gain from good passive solar design is just as important as your space and water heating solution.

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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…