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Wales has a ‘carbon free’ house

Category: News August 4th, 2010 by mbc

An interesting story on Wales Online today that raises more questions for me than it answers for me…

Wales has it’s first ‘carbon free’ house. The house is built along PassivHaus lines on a small estate in Ebbw Vale from mainly Welsh materials. It has PV panels so generates its own power and has managed to achieve level 6 in the Code for Sustainable Homes.

However, it still has energy bills of £50 a quarter. Not sure what that’s for, perhaps electricity connection or standing charges (although the article does specify ‘energy bills of just £50 a year’). As such, I’m not sure what ‘carbon free’ means – perhaps I’m being cynical and perhaps some more research is required…

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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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Lammas ecovillage update

Category: News September 1st, 2009 by mbc

I wrote about the Lammas ecovillage back at the start of the year. At the time, I aired my feelings of ethical support, but real-world unease. Now things have moved on and the development has been granted planning permission not by local planners, but in an act of centralised government colonialism, by the Welsh Assembly Government, against the wishes of local politicians and residents.

“The local MP, the county council, the AM and most importantly the local residents, were all against it and yet the Welsh Assembly has come in and just ridden roughshod over everyone’s concerns.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies

It’s from the point of view of the local residents that I agree with the opponents of the scheme. In the words of Counsellor John Davies the leader of Pembrokeshire County Council (who thinks the decision to grant the permission is “wrong”):

Hard working families cannot get permission to build a single dwelling if it is outside a village boundary and yet this community has got permission for an entire village.

On face value this seems like double standards and favouritism. In their defence Lammas can claim eco credentials that a traditional block and brick or timber frame building with a typical usage pattern may not have. A test case of a planning application for single dwelling for a local family on a traditional site, but with improved eco credentials would move this on in an interesting direction and perhaps (depending on the outcome of the application) lead to a more equitable range of options for all involved.

In the sake of even-handedness, I’ll leave off with the words of Paul Wimbush of Lammas:

It is an opportunity for society to begin to implement the radical change that is so desperately needed to develop vibrant local economies and sustainable land use. The Welsh Assembly Government can see this and thank goodness we have central government leadership with the vision and courage to welcome change.

Quotations from and thanks to the Tivy Side Advertiser.

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Lammas ecovillage

Category: News January 11th, 2009 by mbc

In the same part of the world as the MBC barn is the Lammas ecovillage. As a venture into sustainable living on a far grander scale than our own meagre and partial attempt, it is a endeavour of both ideological and political personal interest. I applaud the vision of this initiative, the scale seems right (a cluster of homes around a central hall has an iron age resonance), Pembrokeshire CC has opened the door with its Low Impact Development Making a Positive Contribution policy (albeit only by a chink and they’ve kept the safety chain on) and the passion the founders feel is apparent in all that they do. However, the inevitable but must be raised as there are a number of aspects of the project that cause me unease.

The main difficulty I have in supporting this project is in the ‘composition’ of the community and the global approach that is being taken to what I perceive as a local initiative.

In-comers & Out-siders
The impression I get and I may be very wrong is that the ecovillage will be made up of bright-eyed out-siders with good intentions. Now this is an emotive subject and terminology (trust me I know, I & my family were fresh-faced out-siders some 25 years ago & will always remain so to some degree) and not one that I wish to labour on but it is important. If you view the video linked to below I think you’ll begin to see what I mean – the two sides of Offa’s dike meet in West Wales, I think the Normans did a similar thing 1,000 years ago. A more local flavour to the project would leave a sweeter taste…

The Global Perspective
For me, aside from regulations, codes and standards, planning is a local issue, of concern to local people and authorities and frankly not the business of those who live further afield – I can waffle on all I like about my opposition or support of approaches to renovation of crofts in the highlands or second homes in Cornwall, but at the end of the day my opinion doesn’t count and so, unless I’m adding some great or useful insight I wouldn’t really expect to have any influence. So when I find pleas for and evidence of international support (News page – halfway down) this global aspect does not add to the projects validity rather it reminds me of many of the aspects of human nature that I’m sure the project team abhor – bullying, colonialism and globalisation (& I suspect many of the projects opponents would agree with me). It speaks to me as:

“There’s lots of us and not many of you, we know best so do as you’re told. Perhaps not on my doorstep, but certainly on yours.”

As I’ve said before, I don’t think the same thing would happen in the Cotswolds.

A share of democracy
One other thing I never really ‘got’ was the concept of buying shares that give me voting rights … (If anyone wants to buy shares in MBC that carry no rights or privileges then let me know.) The shares mean I’m ‘investing in the future‘ and my money will be used to ‘further the wider aims of the project‘ … not sure what any of that means.

Planner & Customers are always right
If I’ve learnt one thing from dealing with planning it’s that there no point apportioning blame. Assess the situation, consider your plans, ensure they conform to all legislation with bearing, submit and then reassess where necessary to progress… In light of this I find the finger pointing and blaming that seems to have occurred subsequent to the latest application both unnecessary and counter productive. Let’s see how the appeal to the Welsh Assembly Government goes…

Having said all this and in conclusion, (I feel a little guilty after that tirade – I obviously had a few things to get off my chest) I broadly support the project and certainly condone its objectives.

(Of course as I’ve already said, my opinion doesn’t really count…)

VIDEO: “unwilling community on an unsuitable site”

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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…