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like a bird’s nest be a thing of great beauty

Category: Barn Conversion Journal October 15th, 2010 by mbc

I’m not sure that the barn resembles any kind of bird’s nest, but I do appreciate Roger Deakin’s words on the beauty to be found in the ordinary.

An old house may be built of the humblest, simplest materials, and, like a bird’s nest be a thing of great beauty.

Or: like a bird’s nest, a house may be beautiful because of the way it combines the simple, ordinary natural materials of which it is built.

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm, page 5.

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If only all the new houses…

Category: Books September 24th, 2010 by mbc

This quotation from Roger Deakin’s last book (or rather the book assembled following his death from his unpublished writing) ‘Notes from Walnut Tree Farm’ raises a thought provoking point regarding the building materials we currently favour and the contrast between buildings ‘seeming’ to be vernacular and ‘truly’ being vernacular.

 

If only all the new houses in our villages were being built of timber and cob, locally grown in working woods, and the cob dug to form new ponds, which would soon fill with water and life. Think of the dragonflies and newts, the frogs and toads. And think of the beauty of the houses, and how naturally they would fit into the village landscape. The materials are the important thing. There is no reason at all why the designs of these houses should not be far more modern and innovative and original. The problem is that the planners have focused their attention on design, instead of on materials, and have missed the point about the truly vernacular.

The happy loop between buildings leading to life filled ponds and locally managed woodland also paints an attractive picture of a simple, happy, sustainable life now mostly lost.

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Bowsaw

Category: Books August 26th, 2010 by mbc

I get laughed at when I insist on using a bowsaw from time-to-time instead of a chainsaw. I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one who appreciates the rhythm and relative silence of this method of cutting wood.

From Woodland

I worked with a small triangular bowsaw. It is surprising how much you can do with one in a day. Bowsaws have the supreme advantage of being quiet and allowing you to work at your own human pace. The manic dictatorship of the chainsaw seems to deafen you to all reason or judgement. A chainsaw is ideal for mechanical jobs like cutting up logs, but deprives you of the greatest pleasure of working in the woods: the opportunity to listen to the natural sounds around you.

From Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain~ Roger Deakin

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Environment for Children

Category: Conversion Design Advice March 18th, 2010 by mbc

I was invited to a talk by Christopher Day in Cardiff so thought I’d take a look at his work to see just what he was about. Can’t say I established that fully, but I did find an very interesting article by Christopher that feeds into the research I’ve been undertaking recently into my sons bedroom. The article, Environment for Children by Christopher Day gives some useful guidence in designing an environment for small children.

I recommend that you read the article for yourself, but my summary follows:

“Childhood is, essentially, the journey of growing up […] Small children need
protection from the wider world, whereas adults are only fully alive when engaged in it.”

Small children need:

  • As “small children live in a world between fantasy and fact” they need somewhere to retreat to, somewhere not too well lit, somewhere that provides a daydream inducing twilight.
  • A secret place, a calm, safe, protective place. We all remember our dens behinds settees or under cushions – a place to hide, play or simply retreat to.
  • Angles, edges and regularity are for the adult world, small children need spherical, soft edged, womb like places.
  • “Infants don’t think. They experience – with their whole bodies and through all their senses.”
  • Touch-friendly, tactile materials in their surroundings. Natural materials such as wood, clay and stone have a tactile vibrancy and ‘life’ not found in ‘unwelcoming’ man-made materials such as concrete or plastic.

“Even in unpromising surroundings, we can create environments for children.”

These needs are best provided for in out-of-the-way places in cellars, attics or under utilised parts of the home. Children want secret territories, adult unfriendly environments.

“The reassuring substantiveness and visual softness of curvilinear cob walls, for instance, suit infants, whereas exposed timber posts’, beams’ and struts’ visually explicit logic suit teenagers’ intellectual curiosity.”

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Logs 2

Category: Barn Conversion Journal January 5th, 2010 by mbc

With my current preoccupation with firewood and the current bout of ice, snow and freezing temperatures making me long for warm weather a favourite quote of mine comes to mind:

…a mosaic of cut log ends that wall the whole of the south-facing end. The summer sun will dry out the end grain, drawing out the sap until the wood is pure energy for the fire.

Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees

I’ve just ordered 120 silver birch and hazel trees from the Woodland trust, far from the best trees for firewood but two of my favourites. I’ll plant as many as possible in amongst the mainly ash trees that currently dominate my small wood. The rest I’ll find a home for.

Whilst perhaps not the cheapest source of trees I thought I’d support the Woodland Trust and buy this batch of trees from them. At least I’ll be contributing regardless of the fate of the trees that I plant.

I’m also looking into planting some fast growing willow in one corner of our field to provide additional fuel and a wind break for the vegetable patch I’m planning … more on this another time.

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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…